Hindu Swayamsevak Sangh has been displaying this appreciation for our teachers here in the United States through the Guru Vandana program, an annual event which offers Hindu students an opportunity to honor and recognize their teachers and their role in shaping who they have become. These programs consist of inviting educators to our shakhas and honoring them in our Hindu tradition. Educators are treated to cultural performances, traditional food, and mementos among other things which differ from shakha to shakha.
Teachers from the elementary to high school levels, principals, and even district superintendents have all participated in these activities with very positive feedback. Perhaps the most instrumental external influence on the dreams, aspirations, and character of a boy or girl comes from that of a teacher. Teachers spend more time with children than even their parents, and undoubtedtly impact their upbringing to a level which is felt even after they have left the stages of student hood. In our Hindu culture, this amount of responsibility of the shaping of young minds we have bestowed upon our teachers, or gurus, is greatly revered and respected.
Guru Vandana 2016 participation was outstanding. A total of over 740 teachers participated in Guru Vandana celebrations across the United States. 255 teachers from Southwest zone, 190 teachers from West Coast zone, 150 teachers from Midwest zone, 84 teachers from South East zone, and 60 teachers from East Coast zone participated. Number of principals and school superintendents also participated across the country.
Students at shakhas across the United States expressed their gratitude during this event in a variety of different ways. In Aarya Chanakya shakha at Troy, Michigan, students gave teachers a plaque, certificate, book, flower, and even a personalized letter attesting their appreciation. In Bloomington, IL, a comedic Sanskrit skit was performed as well as special mementos ordered from Bharat. At Arjun shakha in Orlando, FL, kids expressed their reverence for their teachers and appreciation for knowledge by performing an elaborate dance done in a classical style, evoking Ganesh, Saraswasti, Brahma, Vishnu, and Shiva. These are just a few examples out of many other acts of gratitude.
Often, teachers learn just as much from teaching itself as their students do. This relationship was reflected in many Guru Vandana events as well. In Abhimanyu shakha of Schaumburg, IL, students from the ages of 5 to 13 created and displayed posters covering various aspects of Hindu dharma, including yoga, Ayurveda, and Hindu contribution to the sciences among others. In the Houston area, teachers were exposed to the rich performing arts culture of Bharat, truly highlighting the importance of a well-rounded education. Guru Vandana programs included Kuchipudi and Odissi dance performances, and guests participated in a Garba dance as well as learning Bhangra dance steps. In Carmel, IN, teachers were treated to a Carnatic music performance. At Anand shakha in the Dallas area, teachers were given a history lesson thorough a skit presented by Baaala gana on Shivaji Maharaj and his relationship with his first guru, his mother.
The guru is a central pillar to Hindu philosophy and history, as all of our great men and women were given the tools necessary to protect, enhance, or promote Hindu dharma by educators, whether they be a caring mother, wise Sadhu, or any other individual with the ability to impart valuable knowledge. In today’s world the shaping of the next generation of leaders and greats lies in the hands of our school teachers, nurturing and educating our children so they can succeed and help others to do so. Guru Vandana 2016 has been a successful step in showing our appreciation for these modern day gurus.