What is Guru Purnima?
Guru Purnima is a festival observed to celebrate gurus, teachers, and preceptors. It falls on the Full Moon day in the month of Ashada (July-August). It is also called Vyasa Purnima as it is the birthday of Sage Veda Vyasa who authored the great epic, Mahabharata, and classified the Vedas into four categories – the Rig Veda, Yajur Veda, Sama Veda, and Atharva Veda.
Legends Behind Guru Purnima
Guru Purnima celebrates the advent of Adi Guru or Lord Shiva who appeared in the world 15,000 years ago. The legend goes that at this time, a sage arrived in the Himalayas. He sat quietly in one place, his eyes closed. Occasionally, he shed tears. In the meantime, seven men had gathered around him. After many days, he opened his eyes, and the men pleaded with him to tell them what he was doing. He explained that he had been meditating and closed his eyes again.
The men too sat there for 84 years with their eyes closed. At long last, when the sage opened his eyes, he saw them still sitting there. Pleased, he imparted his wisdom to them. These seven men came to be called the ‘Sapta Rishis,’ and they traveled to different parts of the world to spread the knowledge that ‘Adi Guru’ had taught them.
Guru Purnima is an important day for Buddhists too as Lord Buddha gave his first sermon at Sarnath on this day. They celebrate Guru Purnima by meditating and observing uposatha (meetings of the Buddhist monastic assembly during full moons and new moons, to reaffirm disciplinary rules). It is a special day for Jains too.
Significance of Guru Purnima
Gurus and teachers have been venerated in India from time immemorial. Guru is a Sanskrit word, which has two roots – ‘Gu’ meaning ‘darkness’ and ‘Ru’ meaning ‘removal of darkness or ignorance.’ A guru dispels darkness and ignorance from the minds of his students by lighting the lamp of knowledge and wisdom in their lives.
Guru Purnima has significance to farmers as well. Observing the festival is believed to bring rain. This day is an auspicious occasion for starting spiritual lessons. Spiritual aspirants commence their ‘sadhana’ from this day. On this day, people visit their teachers and ‘Gurus’ and pay their respects. People often donate food and clothes on Guru Purnima. This helps them to seek the blessings of the departed souls of ‘Gurus.’
How to Perform Guru Purnima Pooja at Home
- Wake up at Brahmamuhurta (4 a.m.)
- Meditate on the Guru’s lotus feet and ask for his Grace
- After a bath, worship the Guru’s lotus feet or his image
- Offer flowers, fruits, incense and camphor
- Observe fast or, if not possible, have only milk and fruits, the entire day
- Discuss the glories and teachings of your Guru. Alternatively, observe a vow of silence. Study the works of your Guru or contemplate his teachings
- Pledge to walk the spiritual path following the Guru’s teachings