Teacher’s Day is celebrated on September 5 in India with much reverence, pomp, and fervor. Teacher’s Day in India is celebrated on the birth anniversary of our first Vice President and Second President of India Dr. Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. He was an Indian philosopher and statesman and was a distinguished scholar of comparative religion and philosophy. In India, a teacher’s status is highly revered and worshiped. In fact, many times a teacher’s status is taken to be superior to a god as he or she teaches us the values of leading a good life. Teachers’ Day is popular among students in its current form where they wish their school and college teachers through messages, cards, and gifts, but the tradition of gurudakshina has been there in Hindu mythology since ages.
In the Hindu mythology, princes and princesses used to go and stay with their teachers at their ashrams and gurukuls to gain knowledge and wisdom from them. On the occasion when their learning officially ends they were supposed to offer ‘gurudakshina’ to their gurus which could be anything that the teacher asked for. On the special occasion of Teachers’ Day here is a list of most famous teachers from Indian mythology.
Ved Vyas is regarded as the Guru of Gurus and the festival of Guru Purnima is dedicated to him. Ved Vyasa is credited as the scribe of the Vedas and Puranas as well as the author of the great epic Mahabharata. He was also a character in the Mahabharata and was the grandfather of both the Kauravas and Pandavas and appears as advisors to integral characters in the epic at many junctures.
Parshurama is considered as the sixth avatar of Lord Vishnu and served as a mentor to Bhishma Pitamah and Dronacharya. He taught the art of warfare to Karna the friend of Duryodhana and the eldest son of Kunti.
Dronacharya is probably the most popular mythological teacher. The Indian government even confers the Dronacharya Award on outstanding coaches in sports and games. Dronacharya was the ‘guru’ of Pandavas and Kauravas. He taught the princes of Hastinapur with the knowledge of weapons and the art of warfare. Eklavya was pseudo-taught by Dronacharya when the former made an idol of the latter and practiced archery in front of the idol. Dronacharya famously asked Eklavya for his thumb in ‘gurudakshina’.
Valmiki is popularly and generally known as the sage who wrote Ramayana but he also was the teacher of Lord Rama and Sita’s sons Luv and Kush. When Sita left Ayodhya after being questioned by her people she took refuge with sage Valmiki at his ashram and her twin sons were born there. Valmiki took the twin princes under his wing and taught them the shastras and the art of using weapons.
Vashishtha was known as one of the great Saptarishis. He was the teacher of King Dashratha’s sons Lord Ram, Lakshman, Bharat and Shatrughan. Vashishtha is credited in defeating Vishwamitra when he was a king and turning his thoughts to spiritual pursuits and becoming a sage himself.
Vishwamitra was one of the most venerated rishis or sages of ancient India. Vishwamitra is credited to have written the Gayatri Mantra was the teacher of Lord Ram and Laxman. He taught them the usage of Devastras – celestial weapons which are used in warfare. He also guides them in killing powerful demons like Tataka, Maricha and Subahu.
Brihaspati is the ‘Guru of Devas’ and appears in the Rigveda. He is considered the teacher of all Devas. He carries a special bow whose string is called Rta or “cosmic order”. His wife is Tara and one of the many Dharmashastras was named after Brihaspati. Brihaspati according to stories and scripture protects the Devas in warfare.
Shukracharya is the son of Bhrigu and the third Manu. He is one of the famous Saptarishi and was the guru of Daityas or Asuras. In the Mahabharata he is a mentor of Bhishma Pitamah who learns political science from him in his youth.
In Indian Hindu Mythology knowledge was procured through gurus and teachers who taught them the art of warfare, the values of life and answered their questions about life and death and about dharma and adharma. The relationship between a guru and shishya in Indian mythology was that of devotion and respect and the guru was revered, worshiped and obeyed.