This year Guru Purnima falls on 9th of July. It is celebrated with veneration in India and Nepal.
Guru Purnima is a festival celebrated by the Hindu, Jain and Buddhist communities, to pay respect to their ‘gurus’, teachers or any elders who have imparted wisdom and knowledge to them and helped guide them from darkness to light or ignorance to knowledge. (The word ‘Gu’ in Sanskrit means ‘Darkness’ and ‘ru’; ‘removal of darkness’). While parents bring us into the world, it is the ‘gurus’ who teach us how to live. For this reason, we need to be eternally grateful to them.
As the name suggests, this festival falls on ’Purnima’ or the ‘Full-moon day’, in the Hindu month of ‘Ashadh’(Anytime between June and August of the Gregorian calendar).
It is believed that the Buddhists first started celebrating this festival to pay obeisance to Lord Buddha, who is said to have delivered his first sermon on this day at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh.
Hindus celebrate the day as the birthday of Maharishi Veda Vyasa, who penned the sacred Hindu texts, The Vedas, the 18 Puranas, Mahabharata and the Srimad Bhagavatam, which forms the basis of Hindu religion. The day is also aptly called, ‘Vyaas Purnima’.
The Guru of Gurus, Dattatreya, is also worshiped on this day. He himself was taught by Ved Vyasa.
Jains celebrate Guru Purnima as the day when Lord Mahavira, the 24th Tirthankara, made Gautam Swami, a Gandhara, his first disciple, after himself attaining Kaivalya(Detachment).
Those who walk on the path of spiritualism, express their reverence to Shankaracharya, the heads of monasteries or ‘mathas’ in the Advaita Vedanta tradition.
Many worship Lord Jupiter, the planetary teacher that governs spiritualism and religion.
In Hinduism, Guru is also considered to be equivalent to ‘Tridev’-Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh, the symbolic representations of the three ‘Gunas’ and is believed to be the only one who can guide us to the path leading to any of the ‘Tridev’s’.
For the farmers, this day is cause for celebration as it heralds the onset of monsoons which signifies financial success. They pray for a better harvest than the previous year.
When gratitude is conveyed to the gurus, the native is imparted with intelligence and his learning ability is enhanced. His spirituality is invoked and his life is illuminated with knowledge. He is blessed with peace of mind. For this reason, Guru Purnima has immense importance.
This festival is celebrated in different ways. In the educational institutes, students are imparted temporal knowledge (Apara Vidya) by their teachers, the Gurus. To felicitate them, children have special assemblies on this day. In creative art organizations, especially in the dance and music institutes, performances are organized and the gurus are revered.
In some religious places of India, like Shirdi in Maharashtra, celebrations continue for three days.
Buddhists practice meditation under the guidance of their teachers. They express solidarity to their fellow brothers in their spiritual journey.