The festival of Guru Purnima is mostly a common celebration among Buddhists, Hindus and Jains. Following the Hindu calendar, it is celebrated every year on the full moon day of the Shakha Samavat. Devotees celebrate this festival to thank their mentors for their enlightenment and teachings.
The learnings and knowledge a student can possibly gain often depends on how well-educated and patient his/her teacher is. Thus, the festival of Guru Purnima got its name from the light of the Sun that makes the Moon shine, i.e how a student can shine only when s/he gets the light of the teacher.
The festival usually takes place on a full moon day between the months of July and August. It falls on the day of the full moon or Poornima in the month of Ashadh, and so, the date for Guru Purnima changes every year.
The festival derives its name from a paradoxical term, in which ‘Gu’ means darkness and ‘ru’ stands for the removal of darkness. Thus, a guru is believed to be someone who removes the darkness from our lives. It is also known as Vyasa Purnima, to honour Ved Vyasa, the author of the infamous epic Mahabharata, and also believed to be a pioneer of the guru-shishya (mentor-mentee) tradition who was born on this day.
Customs and Rituals of the festival
On Guru Purnima, the day begins with the activities performed by the students to revere their gurus. Often people perform Guru Pooja in their homes to honour and commemorate their guru(s). Since the first guru in an individual’s life is usually their mothers, fathers, or guardians, the first teachers in a person’s life to guide them and teach them the true values of life, they should be thanked and remembered!
In educational institutions, students organise a number of events like drama, dance and musical performances, to give thanks to their teachers.
In India, since children are often encouraged to join the art forms, those who are a part of a musical or dance group often plan a performance for their teacher, as a way of showing appreciation and their love for the teacher’s dedication.
Disciples of Ved Vyasa recite his sutras on this day to pay respect and show their dedication towards his work.
Legend associated with the festival
The 2 prominent communities in which the festival is so popular have their own legends associated with the festival.
In Buddhism, this festival is celebrated to pay respect to Buddha, who laid the foundation for the religion. Buddhists believe that on this full moon day, Buddha, after attaining enlightenment under the Bodhi tree in Bodhgaya, delivered his very first sermon in the city of Sarnath, in Uttar Pradesh. Since then, the festival of Guru Purnima has been chosen to worship him.
In Hinduism, Guru Purnima is celebrated to worship Lord Shiva. According to Hindu mythology, Lord Shiva transmitted the knowledge of yoga to his seven followers (Saptarishis), and thus became a guru.
The month of Ashad holds a lot of astrological significance for this festival. Astrologers believe that it reveals the best time to unify the Sun in Gemini with the Full Moon is Sagittarius. The festival of Guru Purnima, thus, gets is astrological significance from the positions of these celestial bodies as this is an auspicious time to connect flexibility and vision (of the student) with the heart of Guru’s grace.
Worshipers of Lord Jupiter also consider the festival to be an auspicious time to pray to the planet of knowledge and wisdom. Jupiter, in astrology, is called the teacher-planet!Consult our expert astrologers online to learn more about the festival and their rituals.