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Honouring the gurus

Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains celebrate the festival of Guru Purnima on July 16. Here’s a look at the significance of the traditional celebration


A teacher, (‘guru’ in Sanskrit), has a high place in man’s life. He is one who gives us knowledge.

As a mark of reverence to their chosen spiritual teaches and to express their gratitude towards them, Hindus, Buddhists, and Jains in India, Nepal, and Bhutan celebrate the festival of ‘Guru Purnima’. The festival is celebrated on full moon day (Purnima) in the Hindu month of Ashadha since ancient times.

This year, Guru Purnima falls on Tuesday, July 16. While Buddhists celebrate it in honour of Lord Buddha who gave his first sermon on this day, according to Hindu mythology, it is believed that  this is the day that Lord Shiva became ‘Adi Guru’ (first guru) by transmitting knowledge of yoga to seven followers ie ‘Saptarishis’. Guru Purnima is held sacred in yogic tradition because Adiyogi opened up the possibility for a human being to evolve consciously.

Hindus also celebrate the day in honour of the great sage ‘Vyasa’ who is seen as the greatest guru in Hindu tradition and a symbol of ‘Guru- Shishya’ tradition. The author of the epic ‘Mahabharta’, Vyasa was born to sage Paraksha and Satyavati. It is said that he also completed writing the ‘Brahma Sutras’ on this auspicious day and hence the day is also known as ‘Vyas Purnima’.

Veda Vyasa did yeoman service to the cause of vedic studies dividing them into four parts based on their use in rites and characteristics and teaching them to his four disciples – Pila, Vaisampayana, Jaimini, and Sumantu. He divided the Holy Vedas into Rig-Veda, Yajur-Veda, Sama-Veda, and Atharv-Veda. Histories and Puranas are said to be the fifth Veda.

On this day, students express their gratitude towards their teachers by performing their puja, offering them flowers, and gifts. Some give discourses to the public.

Students of Indian classical music and dance, which also follow the Guru- Shishya tradition, celebrate this festival by organising musical programmes. They also perform puja of Vyasa’s portrait at their residence.

Special recitation of Hindu scriptures authored by Veda Vyasa are held apart from singing of bhajans, hymns, special ‘kirtan’ performances and ‘havan’ at some places. In schools and colleges the pujan ritual of the portrait of sage Vyasa is held by offering flowers, garlands, and fruits. Events to thank teachers and remember past scholars are organised by students who give gifts to their teachers as a gesture of gratitude.

In Goa, besides schools, colleges and music saunsthas, Bharat Vikas Parishad organises a ‘Guru Vandan Programmee’. Students visit schools and express gratitude towards teachers by offering them flowers and saluting them.

The Bicholim Swarbahar Sangeet Saunstha and Brahmanand Shant Swar Sangeet School will also be organising music programmes which will be presented by its students.

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