Guru Purnima is dedicated to all the gurus—spiritual or academic—who have imparted their knowledge and wisdom to make the world a better place.
By Reya Mehrotra
As the name suggests, the day of Guru Purnima is dedicated to all the gurus—spiritual or academic—who have imparted their knowledge and wisdom to make the world a better place. The day, which was celebrated recently, is largely observed by Jains, Buddhists and Hindus. Here, we bring to you a list of some of the greatest Indian teachers of all times.
Indian writer, activist and leading Hindi poet, Mahadevi Varma held a master’s in Sanskrit. She was an advocate for women’s rights. For her contributions in Indian literature, she received the Jnanpith Award in 1982 and Padma Bhushan in 1956. Varma is known to be one of the four pillars of the Chhayawaad era in Hindi literature, the era of neo-romanticism. The most popular female litterateur of the 20th century, she is revered today.
APJ Abdul Kalam
The 11th President of India and space scientist APJ Abdul Kalam has a list of stellar achievements to his credit. He spent more than four decades at DRDO and ISRO, and was called the Missile Man of India. In 1998, he played an important role in India’s Pokhran-II nuclear tests. After his retirement from his political career, he returned to his career in education and writing. He became a visiting professor at IIM-Shillong, IIM-Ahmedabad and IIM-Indore, and professor of aerospace engineering at Anna University. He also had distinct roles in a number of other educational institutes across India.
The poet is one of the most influential figures of Bengali literature. He is credited for having introduced Indian culture to the West and vice-versa in the 20th century. He was the first non-European to receive the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1913. He wrote several famous works and poems, including his collection Gitanjali. A leader of the Brahmo Samaj, he started an experimental school called Shantiniketan, the roots of which were established by his father.
The first Vice President of India and the second President was an academician, politician, philosopher and professor. His birth anniversary, September 5, is celebrated as Teacher’s Day to honour educators across the country. He taught philosophy at Mysore and Kolkata universities and ethics and eastern religion at England’s Oxford University. He was also elected as Unesco’s executive board chairman in 1948.
The founder of Arya Samaj, which advocated a return to the Vedas, was against idol worship. He worked towards spreading Vedic Hinduism in India and furthered a number of important social reforms like banning child marriage, making Vedic studies accessible to all castes, equal rights for women, widow remarriage, and founded many educational institutions.
Social reform was one of the main aims of Swami Vivekananda, a spiritual leader and reformer. He joined the Brahmo Samaj to eliminate illiteracy, child marriage and propagate equality for women. He was an advocate of the gurukul system of education and the Vedanta philosophy, one of the six systems of Indian philosophy. The founder of Ramakrishna Mission was also known for his intellectual ideas.
Also known as Kautilya, Chanakya authored a treatise on polity called Arthashastra, which was a compilation of everything related to artha, or material success and property. He was a counsellor and adviser to Chandragupta and had knowledge of medicine and astrology. He was also known for his wisdom and knowledge of human nature, and is compared with the likes of Plato, Aristotle and Machiavelli.
The founder of Buddhism, Buddha is one of the most important spiritual teachers of the world who lived between 6th and 4th century BC. The title of Buddha refers to one who is enlightened. His birthday is celebrated in a number of countries on different dates. Buddhism suggests that the cycle of rebirth is suffering and to escape from this suffering is the ultimate goal of Buddhism.
Indian educationist and social reformer, Phule is known as the first female teacher of India. Jyotirao Phule, her husband and Savitribai are known to have brought light to women’s rights in India and founded India’s first girls’ school in Pune in 1848. By 1851, they were successfully running three girls’ schools in Pune. She worked towards abolishing gender and caste-based discrimination. She was also a popular Marathi writer and is often called the mother of Indian feminism.