O teacher – a tribute to you

In Indian culture, teacher is given a higher position than father and mother.

5th september is celebrated as the Teachers day in India, in rememberance of Late Indian president, Dr Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan. He was a teacher, who later held the president’s post in India

All over the world, a teacher holds an exalted place. It is the teacher who is responsible for the pupil’s  welfare and education. So, teacher or guru is given a special place all over the world from ancient times to today.  It has been seen that teachers have played a pivotal role for the welfare of their pupil.  There are numerous examples available where a teacher has done everything for their pupil and pupils have attained greatness because of their teacher. In the following paragraphs, we will discuss about the teacher and pupil relationship across various cultures.

Teacher’s relevance in Japanese Culture

Teacher and pupil relationship exist in different forms, such as mentor and protege. In Japanese culture, we have heard about Sempai and Kohai. These terms have been made popular by the movie, “The Rising Sun”.

In Chinese culture, Mandarins were the teachers, who imparted education by travelling throughout the country. This was a tough job, but tells in volumes about the significance of teachers.

In Indian mythology and context, some important teacher student relationships are detailed as following:

Chanakya and Chandragupt

This is probably the best example of mentor and protege relationship in Indian history. Chanakya, the teacher of Chandragupt, has planned for his disciple’s ascendancy. He executed the plan well. Chandragupt went on to rule all over India. Later on, he was supported by Chanakya in governance as well. This is worth mentioning that both of these have humble beginnings, but their desire to overcome obstacles was so powerful, that they became the supreme powers.

Chanakya – The teacher of Chandragupt

Ekalavya and Drona

Another great example of Guru Shishya relationship from the times of Mahabharat. Drona did not teach Ekalavya. But he did not hesitate once when he was asked for his thumb by his Guru, Dronacharya. Drona has done this to ensure that his pupil, the great archer remains the best in the business. Drona has gone out of the way to ensure that Arjuna gets his due.

Read about Ekalavya and Drona

Drona – teacher of Arjuna

Arjuna and Shri Krishna

Perhaps you would wonder that this alliance is not written in terms of teacher and pupil alliance, as they were friends, Nar and Narayana. But think of it, this was Shri Krishna’s preachings, which made Arjuna to fight the war of Mahabharat. Shri Krishna was his supreme teacher. He guided him to victory. While other given him the knowledge, Shri Krishna ensured that Arjuna won his war. This is why we can treat him as the Supreme Guru.

Krishna and Arjuna – Nar and Narayan

Parshurama and Karna

This example isbjust opposite of Drona and Arjuna, here the teacher cursed his pupil. Where as Drona ensured that his pupil gets benefited. Anyway, Karna’s quest for knowledge cannot be faulted.  When he was denied by Parshurama, he arranged somehow that he becomes his teacher. Here the fate did the trick.  Karna was born as a Kshatriya, but he did not knew this. In absence of this knowledge, he has to bear the brunt of something he was not responsible for.

Sage Vasistha and Lord Rama

Vasishtha , one of the Saptarshi’s was the teahcer of Lord Rama and his brother Laxman. Rama helped his teacher later, as he killed demons. These demons were creating problems for Sage Vasistha. This is how, Ram paid gurudakshina to him.

Ramakant Achrekar and Sachin Tendulkar

Another very good example of this relationship is Sachin and Ramakant. People say that what Sachin is today is because of the training given to him by his teacher Ramakant Achrekar. For his contribution, Sir Achrekar has also won the Dronacharya award.

Ramakant Achrekar and Sachin Tendulkar

Shane Warne and Terry Jenner

Lot of people know about the genius of Shane Warne, but few know that this legend has been trained by the Terry Zenner, himself a leg spin bowler.  He played nine test for Australia and revived the art of leg spin, which is increasingly becoming a rarity in Cricket.

Tery Jenner – the teacher
Terry Jenner and Shane Warne

Bhishma – Brihaspati and Parshurama

Bhishma was the son of Shantanu and Ganga, and he had two teachers. Thus Parshurama was the teacher of Bhishma and Karna both, but yet, Bhishma did not like Karna. This was the reason Karna did not fight the war of Mahabharat under the commandership of Bhishma.

Prahlad’s – In Indian mythology, Prahlad was the disciple of Vishnu. His father, Hirankashyap did not like this and tried to kill his own son. Such was the devotion of Prahlad, Vishnu took the Narsimha avatar to save his disciple. Again, an example of teacher saving his disciple.

In Greek Mythology too, there is a story on teacher and student, but it is quite similar to Karna and parshurama story, where the teacher has cursed her pupil, archane.

Indian Mythology Teacher

What Arjuna gave to his teacher as Gurudakshina?

Arjuna’s gurudakshina to his teacher

One wonders that what kind of gurudakshina Arjuna offered to his teacher, Drona. Drona gone to great lengths to ensure that Arjuna becomes  the best archer in the world. We find only one story, and that too was a gurudakhina by all pandavas, when the captured Drupad, once a close friend of Drona. Drona returned his half kingdom and kept half for himself. Probably, the gurudakshina was to fight his teacher in the battle of Mahabharat. Arjuna, after Shri Krishna’s advise, fought with his Guru, Drona alongwith Bhishma and others.

Going back to the question, why was Arjuna so blessed that everyone worked for his cause. We know for sure that Karna was better, but we also know that, he was on the wrong side. But what was the problem with Ekalvya? We don’t know of any wrongdoing done by him, yet Drona, his “teacher”, wanted his thumb.

But why thumb, he could have asked straightaway that Ekalavya should leave archery. Why the poor soul has to loose a limb? Why was Drona so cruel to him? We will never get an answer to this, but one thing is certain, Indian culture may be famous for the pupils showing respect for their teacher, but here we find that teacher has not set a good example.

Ekalavya practicing archery with the idol of Drona in Mahabharat

There is not enough information that what gurudakshina Bheeshma has given to his teachers, Parshuram and Brihaspati, but his character is such that he would not have missed this.

In another incident involving teacher and pupil,  Shri Krishna has asked Barbarik to give his head as gurudakshina, which he promptly obliged. He had three arrows, who had the power to defeat anyone in the world. Before decapitating himself, Barbarik told Krishna of his great desire to view the forthcoming battle and requested him to facilitate the same.

Krishna agreed and placed the head on top of a hill overlooking the battlefield. From the hill, the head of Barbarika watched the entire battle. Barbarik is also known as khatushyam jee. Barbarik is one of the three persons who has watched Shri Krishna in his virat avatar. Others are Sanjay and Arjuna.

Barbarika giving his head in Gurudakshina to Shri Krishna in Mahabharat

Shri Krishna was fortunate, as he had the powers to bring back his teacher, Sage Sandipani’s son. Imagine, if he was asked for his finger, then who would have wielded the Sudarshan chakra?


Aruni and Dhoumya – teacher and student example

Aruni – the real disciple of his teacher

We find many examples highlighting teacher and pupil’s relationship or depicting the devotion of the disciple towards its teacher. Ekalavya, Karna, Ram, Krishna all great gods of Indian mythology were great pupils as well. One such disciple is Aruni.

Aruni was in gurukul – The teacher’s abode

Aruni was a disciple of the ancient sage Dhoumya. In olden days a student had to stay with the teacher and help in the teacher’s daily chores in order to attain the knowledge he sought.
It was winter. Aruni was carrying the firewood he had collected for the sage’s household. As he was passing by the field, which belonged to the sage, he noticed a breach in the embankment that was holding water in his teacher’s field. He realized that the water would drain away and the field’s crops would die with no water.

Aruni – another example of teacher – disciple relationship

Aruni decides to tend to the field

He was in a dilemma If he stops to build the embankment,  there will be a delay as there is no firewood at the teacher’s place to keep it warm. He thought its better to rush to the hermitage with the firewood and then come back to take care of the breach.
Meanwhile the sage and his disciples had assembled for the day’s lesson. Aruni was missing.
Soon Aruni rushed in, dropped the firewood in the courtyard, and informed the teacher about the breach of the embankment. Then he quickly rushed out.
His teacher Dhoumya felt proud of his disciple, “It is hard to get such a responsible pupil.”

Aruni ran all the way back to the troubled spot and tried to stop the leakage of water by putting some logs and mud. However, this did not stop the leak. The heavy pressure of water washed away the dam Aruni made. He felt helpless. It seemed impossible for him to stop the leakage without help. He thought for a while and then made a plan.
When it turned dark, the teacher became worried. He called his disciples and set out looking for Aruni. As he called out for Aruni, he heard a faint voice, “Here I am!”

Aruni was found freezing

The teacher and his disciples rushed to the spot and saw Aruni lying on the breach, trying to cover the gap. The disciples quickly pulled Aruni out from the freezing water. He was repeatedly muttering, “The water is flowing out, the crops will die.”
“Don’t worry Aruni! We will take care of the breach,” said the disciples.
“Never mind my son! You are more precious than the crop,” said the teacher.
Aruni was covered in a blanket and brought home. Sage Dhoumya himself tended to Aruni. The sage then blessed his disciple with pride, “You shall, forever, be renowned for your unmatched devotion and obedience to your guru.

Thus Aruni presented a notable example of his devotion towards his teacher. This indian story is taken from Mahabharat, a Hindu mythology epic.


Indian Mythology Teacher

Gurudakshina – offering to teacher

Gurudakshina – importance of teacher

Teacher or Guru is given tremendous importance in Indian culture, The Guru or  teacher is greater than father in Indian culture. Though there are numerous incidents available depicting pupils who have sacrificed for their Gurus, many people do not know that Krishna was one such pupil who went to great lengths for his Guru (teacher).

Shri Krishna and his older brother Balram used to study at the ashram of Guru Sandeepani. Guru Sandeepani was their teacher. Once they graduated, it was time to leave the ashram and return to their kingdom of Mathura.
Shri Krishna approached his Guru Sandeepani and his wife and asked them what they want for Guru Dakshina. They turned him down saying, “What we want the most you can’t give us, so please don’t ask us”. Shri Krishna was not happy with the answer and told Guru Sandeepani’s wife to elaborate on exactly what the guru means. The Guru’s wife couldn’t control her emotions and started crying saying that many years ago their son got drowned in a sea while having a bath.


Sandipani and Krishna

Shri Krishna promised them that he will go to the sea where he drowned and find him. Shri Krishna and Balraam go to the sea and find out that his Guru’s son didn’t drown but got caught by a demon called Paanchjanya”. Shri Krishna goes deep into the sea to find the demon inside a “Shankha” (conch). He killed the demon but could not find the guru’s son. He took the “Paanchjanya” shankha for himself which he used many times during battles.
Then He went to Yam Raaj (God of Death) and asked Yam Raaj about him. Yam Raaj said – “Here we get only souls not the bodies.” Shri Krishna said – “I want my Guru’s son back at all cost.” Yam Raaj gave him his Guru’s son. Shri Krishna and Balraam retuned to Gurukul along with Guru’s son and presented their Guru Dakshina to them. Guru and his wife were very happy to see their lost son coming back after so many years. Thus, Krishna paid his Gurudakshina to his teacher.