Guru-Shishya Tradition: Beyond Teacher-Student Relation

Written by Shalini Saxena on 27 July 2018

Gurur Brahma, Guru Vishnuh,

Gurur Devo Maheshwaraha,

Gurur Sakshat Parabrahma,

Tasmai Shri Gurave Namaha.

Guru-Shishya Parampara is an age old tradition in India which has existed for centuries and has transformed over the years. The tradition reinstates a sense of belongingness towards ones teacher and worshiping the Guru as God. It also meant spending the entire duration of education at the abode of the Guru until the student attains perfection at the art or skill he is learning. Though the tradition has evolved with the modern education system taking over but the Indian music education still depicts this bond as ‘the one of eternal respect towards the Guru’.

Guru Shishya Parampara

From the Treta Yuga, Ramayana has mentions of the Gurukul system and Lord Rama’s Guru Rishi Vishwamitra. Also, scriptures about Dwapara Yuga talk about Lord Krishna’s Guru Rishi Sandipani. The teacher-disciple relationship is a divine bond which has a spiritual and religious significance in our country. Guru-Shishya parampara is a Sanskrit phrase in which shishya literally translates to ‘student of a guru’ while parampara refers to ‘an uninterrupted succession’. Thus the lineage is simply passing the wisdom from a succession of Gurus to their Shishyas through oral tradition.

The Oral Tradition - Maukhik Parampara

Maukhik Parampara or the ancient oral tradition remained the only form of propagating Indian Classical Music for many centuries. There was no written curriculum for music education and the Gurus transferred their knowledge to the Shishya orally or verbally. The students had to grasp and absorb the knowledge by listening to the instructions and musical wisdom uttered by their revered Gurus.

Gurur Devo in Indian Music

Indian Classical music has always laid deep emphasizes on the significance of Guru-Shishya Parampara. It is believed that to learn music deeply and truly one has to surrender themselves to their Gurus. The Parampara delineates the Guru as the supreme power and the student shows eternal respect towards his knowledge-father. Many World renowned artists continue to keep their identity attached with their Gurus.

Gharanas in Hindustani and ‘Paatu’ teachers in Carnatic

Over the years, both the forms of Indian Classical music Hindustani as well as Carnatic have followed a remodelled version of the Guru Shishya tradition. Though the concept of Gurukul system has faded away in most forms of education, the propagation of Indian music has continued to rely on this bond which is much deeper than a usual teacher-student relationship. The Gharanas in Hindustani and the local ‘Paatu’ teacher tradition in Carnatic music carry various aspects from the lineage like the maukhik parampara, eternal respect towards the teacher, students attaching their Guru’s name to their identity and much more.

Guru Kripa Awards

The teacher-student relationship in Indian music is much more than just imparting the technique, style and aesthetics of music. The essence of this bond is sheer devotion, love and hard work. Both Guru and Shishya grow in the process, the student transforms through his Guru’s knowledge and the Shishya keeps his Guru’s teachings alive. Undoubtedly, the Guru-Shishya relationship holds almost a spiritual place in Indian culture.

The best thing about being a teacher is that it matters,

the hardest thing about being a teacher is that it matters everyday!

Respecting this power of the Gurus and to honour those who have made a huge impact as a teacher in the world of Indian Classical Music, the Shankar Mahadevan Academy introduced Gurukripa Awards last year. Gurukripa Awards are an effort to recognise the immense contributions of Gurus who have strived over the years to create the next generation of talented musicians.

On the occasion of Guru Poornima, we express our gratitude to all our dedicated Gurus who enrich the lives of their students by spreading the ‘Joy of Music’.

Wishing all our revered Gurus a very Happy Guru Poornima!!