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Gurudakshina to Teacher's Day: How it has Changed



The nation celebrated Teachers Day yet another time today. A day that has been dedicated to teachers in a nation where the tradition of Guru-Sishya is as old as its civilization. 5th September as you all know is the birthday of the second president of the Republic of India, Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan, who was a renowned academic philosopher, and it is in his respect that India celebrates ‘Teachers Day’.

Actually India is not the only country that celebrates a day dedicated exclusively to the teachers. In fact, many other countries have been celebrating it long before we did, for example, Albania started the tradition of teacher’s day from March 7, 1887, when the first secular school which taught lessons in Albanian was opened on this day in the small city of Korce. It was in only in 1962, that 5th September was announced as Teachers Day in India.
So how do we differentiate the Teacher-Student relationship of India with the others? What we Indians believe is that we are special in almost every way. Though in certain cases this hypothesis of ours fails, but there are valid evidences to prove many other.
Teachers have always been rendered a special position in the Indian society. Some place them next to God, while other takes them just next to parents. Ideology differentiates, but the richness of the Teacher-Student relationship has always been regarded priceless in the country.
As I said earlier, the Guru-Sishya tradition in India is as old as its civilization. In epics like Mahabharata, the relationship between Dronacharya and his favorite student Arjun have been elaborated in detail. A guru’s love for his student while the students respect for his Guru was somewhat cultured into the Indian tradition right from the ancient ages.

Since the relationship of Gurus and Sishyas have always been of so much importance that even epics like Mahabharata talks of them, then surely somewhere in the Indian tradition we do have a day dedicated to the teachers. And again, this day is actually related to epic Mahabharata.
Guru Purnima’ is marked as the day of veneration to Gurus by the Hindus. According to the modern day calendar Guru Purnima falls sometime in between June and July. This was the day, when Krishna-Dwaipayana Vyasa – author of the Mahabharata – was born to sage Parashara and a fisherman's daughter Satyavati. And it is he who is considered the guru of all gurus and worshipped on this day.
Again in the Buddhist mythology, it was the same day when Lord Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath, Uttar Pradesh, India. But irrespective of what the various religions preach, it is certain that, in the Indian tradition, the respect and gratitude for teachers have always been shown since ages.
The system of Gurukuls were again an integral part of Indian tradition, where students spent more of their time with their teachers rather than their parent and as such their affection and bondage with their gurus are further strengthened.
The dialog that transpired above was sufficient to justify India’s claim of its inherited Guru-Sishya tradition. Guru as you all know is derived from two Sanskrit word, ‘Gu’ meaning Darkness and ‘Ru’ meaning Remover, making its literary meaning, ‘The Remover of Darkness’. Thus, with time, the saints that came into the help of society during dark times also proclaimed the title of Guru. Irrespective of the people who were his disciple, the whole of the society consider or rather salute them as Guru, example, Shrimanta Shankardev in Assam, Guru Govind Singh for Sikhs etc.
Now jumping into the modern times, the period of Gurukuls was over, and schools came up. The tradition of teaching while residing alongside the teacher was over and from duty, the teaching became profession. Yet to a large extent, the respect for teachers remained the same. Form Gandhiji to Radhakrisnan and even to Dr. Kalam, students placed them just next to god. And after the official declaration of Teachers Day in 1962, it became a tradition amongst the students to show their affection towards the teachers by gifting them, or doing something to entertain.
I remember my school days, that ended very recently. By the start of the month of September, we stared our week long planning for Teachers Day, collecting money to get gifts for our favorite ones. We literally competed with our fellow classes to prepare and present the best for the teachers. But we were no short of respect for what they have done for us.
But as time passed by, the celebration of Teachers Day became mere restricted only to show off. What was used to be done to show affection, was done only to compete and earn marks. I beg my pardon, if I have offended any, but seriously this is a harsh truth.
The respect for teachers by at the current time is also a debatable topic. After the abolishment of punishment by teachers by the Government, there has been a change in the attitude of the students. They have actually started taking teachers for granted. There were days, when students couldn’t even dare to make an eye contact with their teachers, and now we have students murdering teachers.
Two of the very recent case, first in Chennai, where a 13 year old boy stabbed his teacher to death just because she complained about him to his parents on February 9th. Again on April 9th, a teacher from Sonepat was crushed to death by his students just because he didn’t allow them to cheat.
The contrast is, once there was a time, where students were ready to give up their life as Gurudakshina, while now teachers are made to lose their life, as they did not go according to the students. It’s a rather shame on the part of the world’s oldest civilization that we could not uphold our tradition of Guru-Sishya which was in fact a part of our culture.
This Teachers Day, I would just like to wind up with the hope that, what teachers were to students in the past ages, should remain the same, else there is no point of celebrating a day show offing false love and respect.      

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Amlan Das Amlan Das Author

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