Guru Purnima 2018: Friday, 27 July

The word Guru is derived from two words – ‘gu’ and ‘ru’. The Sanskrit root ‘gu’ means darkness or ignorance. ‘Ru’ denotes the remover of that darkness. Therefore, a Guru is one who removes the darkness of our ignorance. According to Hindu tradition, Gurus are believed by many to be the most necessary part of life. On this day, disciples offer pooja (worship) or pay respect to their Guru (spiritual guide). In addition to having religious importance, this festival has great importance for Indian academics and scholars. Indian academics celebrate this day by thanking their teachers as well as remembering past teachers and scholars.

Guru Purnima marks the day when Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa, popularly known as Vyasa – author of the Mahabharata – was born to Sage Parashara and a fisherman’s daughter Satyavati. Thus, this day is also known as Vyasa Purnima.

Vyasa was also known as Krishna Dwaipayana because he was dark complexioned (krishna) and was born on an island (dweepa). He is credited to have compiled the four Vedas, the Mahabharata and the eighteen Puranas.

Guru Purnima also reminds us of the story of a devoted student named Ekalavya, the matchless tribal youth who gladly sacrificed his right-hand thumb as dakshina (reward) to his relentless guru and teacher Dronacharya. Ekalavya is one of the greatest examples of devotion to the teacher, and it is appropriate that he is remembered on this day.

Significance of Guru Purnima

Guru Purnima is observed on the full moon day in the month Aashaadha (June–July). This festival dates back to time immemorial. In the ancient days, students used to obtain their education in Ashrams or Gurukulas. The students would revere their teachers on this day and offer them their Guru-dakshina (fee and presents) according to their means and capacity. Devotees and disciples fast on this day and venerate their gurus, seeking their blessings.