Tuesday, June 23, 2009


How has the scene in India changed.Read and see for yourself.Maybe,we could tell our children about the old realities............

The status of the teacher in India from times immemorial has been next only to parents-
Mother, father teacher. The parents give a life to a child, but it is the teacher who gives the child the inner light and wisdom to lead a noble and meaningful life. Hence this protocol ranking.

The status of the teacher is also sublime- he is Brahma,Vishu and Maheswara all combined in one…. the all pervading spirit …. We prostrate before him with the invocation:
Gurur Brahma Gururvishnuh
Gururdevo Maheswarah
Guruh sakshat parabrmhah
Thasmai Shree Gurave namah!”

Devotion to teachers is the concept formed, developed and continued down the ages for millions of years. Hindu mythology and ancient Indian literature are littered with stories and anecdotes touching upon this unwritten code of teacher-taught relationship (Guru-Shishya bandha) highlighting the absolute authority of the teacher over his pupils.

In times of yore, imparting of knowledge ( not just education) was done though institutions known as Gurukuls. It was a residential course of several years or even decades, the student having to live in the teacher’s house as part of the family , sharing and enduring the agonies and ecstasies of the teacher’s family. On seeking his approval, the Parents just left their children at the formative age with a teacher and the latter developed them according to their vasanas , i.e. the temperament and aptitude. No force was ever used on the child to adopt a particular skill- it was all left to his aptitude which was encouraged, developed and fine tuned over a period.

The student was exposed to various experiences and areas of life as part of the curriculum and he was even a part of the household chores- including milking of cows, fetching water from the river, bringing firewood and vegetables, helping the guru’s wife for cooking and so on. It was not a regimented or structured syllabus with a time frame, but a flexible approach enabling the teacher to observe, identify and zero in on the pupil’s aptitude and capabilities and develop them further. Those who displayed passive intellectual calibre were taught the scriptures and Vedas and administrative wisdom.. Those with chivalrous and adventurous traits were inducted into knowledge areas of war fare and physical development.. A redeeming feature of the education was that the essence of dharma and noble living was common topic to all students. Even during the era of varnashram (caste based hierarchical society) this practice with a professional approach was continued. The Brahmin was empowered with knowledge of Vedas and administration, the kshatriya was trained in physical development- running, use of mace, archery etc, The other two segments- sudras and vaishyas- were also trained on agriculture, animal husbandry and in trade. This ensured a balanced society with specified areas of functioning. Here again the base line for all the areas was dharma or ethics in profession.

One outstanding feature all through these periods was the community’s attitude to the teacher. His position continued to be sublime, he had unquestioned, unchallenged authority. Any act of the teacher was beyond questioning and the pupils took great delight in satisfying the Guru’s desires.

The teachers neither expected nor accepted any fee. At the end of the curriculum, every student was supposed to seek of the teacher and give a Guru dakshina if suggested by the teacher and this was one occasion where the student had a chance to prove his devotion and reverence to the teacher. The story goes that Lord Krishna and Balarama, on conclusion of their with Sage Sandipani, asked of him of his Gurudakshina. The sage opened up his heart and told them to bring back alive his only son who was drowned in the sea. Indeed a very difficult task, but it was the dakshina desired by the teacher. They set in, dived deep into the ocean, and still not finding the boy finally reached the abode of the Lord of death, demanded the Guru’s son back, got him and came back with a sense of fulfillment.

Speaking untruths, cheating or disrespect shown to the teacher in deeds, words or even thoughts were considered a great sin and attracted severe punishments. Certain teachers in the name of discipline and adherence to dharma administered and enforced extreme punishments upon their students. In such cases the parents and the community in general approved of the judgment and accepted the teacher’s decision in silence. The Parent Teacher Associations and the student oriented NGOs of modern days will certainly condemn these acts as barbarian.

Karna (who was a kshatriya by birth) posed himself as a Brahmin and learnt Vedas as well as archery from his teacher the great sage Parashurama. And was immensely pleased with his devotion. One day by a strange accident, he realized that Karna had learnt under him by deceit and posing himself as a Brahmin, which he was not.Overcome with anger he cursed Karna that at the crucial moment of any war he was participating, he would suffer amnesia , forget his lessons and be killed. The sage’s curse came true during the war at Kurukshetra.

That disrespect to a teacher even in silent thought was sacrilege and the punishment was nothing short of death penalty is exemplified in the famous story of Sukumar Mahakavi. Sukumar was the most favourite among all his students for his teacher, who built up great hopes and expectations on him emerging as a glowing poet and litterateur. To achieve this, often he resorted to beating this student for better and better performance, but in the bottom of his heart was his great love , affection and respect for the child’s inherent potentialities. One day he tortured him beyond the limits of endurance. Provoked by this and unable to bear this pain as well as humiliation any more, Sukumar thought to himself that he would kill the teacher and planned its execution, all by himself. On second thoughts Sukumar realized his folly and confessed to the teacher of his bad intention. Even rejecting his own wife’s plea for mercy on the boy, the teacher gave him death sentence by self-immolation and it was carried out in the presence of a large gathering of students, his own class mates and citizens.

Pandavas, the princes learnt lessons on archery from the family Guru, Dronacharya. A boy of low case had been watching the coaching classes but as he was a low born he was not eligible to study the art. But eager to learn, and as it has to be under a Guru, the boy made a replica of the Guru in clay, prostrated before it every day and picked up the art of archery in hiding without the knowledge of any one .One day Drone became aware of his skills which even excelled the princes . Dronacaharya was mighty pleased, but since the boy picked up the lessons in hiding, it was cheating on two counts- a low caste picking up a privilege of the kshatriyas and that too in hiding without his knowledge..gross indiscipline! Even so Dronacharay was entitled for a Gurudakshina. He demanded the thumb of the boy-very essential for archery- as Gurudakshina, fully aware that without the thumb one cannot hold a bow and arrow. With no hesitation, with a smile the boy cut his thumb and placed it at the feet of the Guru and immortalized himself as the legendary Ek Lavya.

It is pertinent to note here that if to the Devas their teacher is Bruhaspati, the Demons have Shukracharya as their teacher. Both the camps respect both the teachers as role models irrespective of their affiliations.


b k chowla
data collected from various writings and info

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