Guru Purnima is celebrated today. An eastern spiritual tradition dedicated to teachers (or gurus) – considered as enlightened human beings who share their knowledge and wisdom with others. The occasion is often considered a festival, traditionally observed to revere an individual’s chosen mentors and to express one’s gratitude.
Guru Purnima is observed on a full moon day (purnima) in the month of Ashadha (June-July) as per the Hindu calendar – the day on which Maharshi Sri Veda Vyasa was born. Hence, the day is also known as “Vyasa Purnima“. Vyasa was the one who completed the codification of the four vedas and wrote the eighteen puranas. The day marks the peak of the lunar cycle after the end of the solar cycle. Hence, the specific date varies every year. The Guru Purnima of 2018 is special due to the occurrence of the total lunar eclipse or the blood moon. Hindus refrain from performing any puja or ceremony on the day of the lunar eclipse, since no auspicious practices are undertaken during the period of the eclipse. For this reason, my dance class has scheduled the Guru Purnima ceremony for tomorrow, and my drumming school will be celebrating the occasion on Monday.
I don’t follow the rituals much since I don’t consider myself a religious person, but I try and participate in the activities. My dance form is the Indian classical style of Odissi. On Guru Purnima, our ghunghroos or ankle bells are blessed by the teacher, an offertory of fruits and flowers is made to the gods (Lord Jagannath in the case of Odissi), and the guru ties a cord on the wrist of every student, symbolic of his/her blessings. The student in turn delivers Guru Dakshina – the tradition of repaying a teacher for everything one has learnt in the course of the year. This could be monetary or non-monetary – in a dance class, students can even offer a dance performance as guru dakshina. In my drumming school, students play various percussion instruments as guru dakshina, and homage is paid to the founder of the institute. I play the doumbek, but students can select from an array of instruments – from the djembe to the tabla, the timpani, bongo or the drum kit. Thus, the ceremonies vary depending on what the teacher deems fit for his/her school and students.