Guru Purnima is an auspicious occasion, meant primarily for remembering the Gurus and honoring them. It is the Purnima, Full Moon day which falls in the Hindu month of Ashada (July–August).
A Guru is a teacher, a preceptor or a guide. Indian tradition accords him a distinguished position and often equates him with God himself. As the name suggests – Gu, the darkness, and Ru, the remover. A Guru is held as the one who wipes out the darkness of ignorance and enlightens a mind with wisdom. There are schools of thought that consider him as the link between a human being and the divine, and as the one who can guide the human soul towards the ultimate liberation.
The Significance of Guru Purnima Day
This occasion is regarded as the day of birth of Maharishi Vyasa, who also happened to be a great Guru. It was he who compiled the ancient Vedas, classified them into four sections and gave them for the benefit of the humankind. Hence, he is popularly known as Veda Vyasa, the Vyasa of the Vedas. He was also a great literary figure, who composed the phenomenal epic Mahabharatha and also produced 18 Puranas, including the extremely sacred Bhagavatha Purana. Guru Purnima’s significance extends beyond the confines of Hinduism, as Buddhists and Jains too, observe this occasion for different reasons.
Guru Purnima remains as the occasion of immense religious significance. Many people begin their spiritual pursuits on this day, by starting off with the study of sacred texts and scriptures. This day also marks the beginning of ‘Chaturmas’ the holy period of four months when saints, ascetics and the heads of the monastic orders stay put at a place and devote their time entirely to religious activities, undertaking detailed studies of philosophical works, discussing and debating spiritual matters, doing meditations and performing austerities.
Outside the religious domain, this day signals the start of the monsoons, when the parched lands start getting the much-needed rains, so essential for farming activities. The peasants greet the showers and the occasion, with prayers and celebrations.
Guru Purnima Celebrations
Worshipping the saintly Gurus with devotion and faith remains as the principal activity of the Guru Purnima celebrations.
Devotees get up very early in the morning, purify themselves, and offer prayers to Gods and Gurus. The Guru worship begins typically with revering Veda Vyasa and continues with prayers dedicated to other great Gurus like Dattatreya, Adi Shankara, etc. Devotees decorate the images of such Gurus, make offerings, recite hymns in their praise, do group chanting, listen to discourses, conduct discussions on scriptures, read, recite or hear portions from the works of the Gurus, and offer prayers to them. Lord Dakshinamurthy, the Guru-form of Shiva is also worshipped on occasion. People offer prayers to Guru Graha, the planet Jupiter too, who is regarded as the preceptor of the celestial beings. People also do meditation, while some observe silence and even fasts. Many make resolutions to follow the ideals of the Gurus, while some are initiated into Sanyas, the holy order. People also visit Gurus, spiritual guides, teachers, and elders, offer respects, do service and seek their blessings.
People donate food, clothes, and other items to the needy, and do generous charities on the occasion.