After independence, those who gave a shape to modern India, marked different days as days of national importance. One such day of national importance is the Teachers’ Day, which falls on 5th September to honour teachers.
Why did they choose this day to honour teachers?
Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan was a teacher by profession, who rose to be a leader of modern India.
He started his career as a teacher in the Madras University. He distinguished himself in his chosen field of Philosophy and in his times, was one of the foremost thinkers in this field. His specialisation was Hindu philosophy. We often hear the phrase, “Hinduism is a way of life” as a way to explain Hinduism. This phrase was coined by Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan.
From being a teacher, Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan soon rose to the high post of becoming the Vice President of India and later occupied the highest post of the land as the 13th President of India.
One particular instance of his brilliance is when he addressed the august gathering of Master Minds in United Kingdom. One of the norms after a person addresses a Master Mind is for the presiding officer of the function to give his comments. After Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan’s address at the Master Minds, the presiding officer’s only comment was, “a mastermind on Master Minds.” Such was his erudition indeed!
After his lecture there, one of the students present asked him, whether he possessed the whole of the knowledge, for which Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan replied that, “he was still searching for grains, in the sands of knowledge”.
Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan’s humble repartee to the student seems to have been inspired by the famous quotation of the ancient Tamil poetess Avvaiyaru – “What you have learnt is equal to just a handful of soil, what you have yet to learn, is as wide as this Earth”.
True knowledge is that which produced humility and a sense of balance in the individual.
In memory of the scholarship of this teacher and leader, the Government of India declared his birthday as Teacher’s Day.
A good teacher is known by the students he creates.
While the birthday of Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishna was chosen as the date to honour teachers, we cannot afford to forget his teacher. For, it was his teacher, Ashutosh Mukherjee who had guided Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishna in rising to those great heights.
In 1921, it was Ashutosh Mukherjee who convinced the budding philosopher, Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan to join the Calcutta University. Ashutosh Mukherjee also inspired and groomed other famous personalities like C. V. Raman, Srinivasa Ramanujam and Subhash Chandra Bose.
This teacher’s day, let us cherish memories of not only the great teacher Dr. Sarvapalli Radhakrishnan but also the great teacher’s teacher, Ashutosh Mukherjee.
Kalasam, an auspicious symbol
An image of a Kalasam with a coconut and mango leaves on its mouth is always used as a sign of auspiciousness. It signifies prosperity and the joys it brings with it. The water held in it is a sign of overflowing bounty.
How does a Kalasam hold beyond its brim and over flow to denote this overflowing bounty?
Let us look at a pitcher, Kalasam.
If you fill water in a pitcher, Kalasam, we can only fill it to the brim. Beyond its brim water will flow out of the pitcher and the Kalasam will always be only brimfull at the most.
Can we make a kalasam hold water beyond its brim?
When you put a coconut on top of a Kalasam filled with water, the water inside the coconut, gives rise to a setting, where there is water over and above the brim in the Kalasam. Below the coconut, you have the mango leaves dipped in the water. The water dripping from these mango leaves continuously through its capillary action, indicate an overflow, an overflowing prosperity for all.
The Kalasam filled with water, with mango leaves and a coconut on its mouth, thus symbolizes prosperity and the overflowing bountiful Nature.
The coconut also represents the human body and ego. Only when the ego is broken, the pureness in us, which is innate to us, comes out to the open. This goodness is a resplendent, pure, sweet succor to life and is symbolized by the white and sweet kernel inside the coconut. Breaking the coconut is akin to symbolically breaking the “ahankaram”, ego, the total surrender and merging with the Divine.
Such a full Kalash, Kalasam forms a prominent part of the Varalakshmi Vratam festival.
Varalakshmi Vratam is a festival that brings out the connect between a kalsam and overflowing prosperity, connect between prosperity and water, connect between water and women and the connect between women and abundance to make a full circle.
It is celebrated by the women of India in the month of Shravana on second Friday. It falls in August – September every year, the peak of the monsoon season, when the lands are green and filled with water from the copious rains.
Venerating a Kalasam of Varalakshmi Vratam
The key aspect of the rituals in this festival is that, the women take a Kalasam, pitcher of water, wrap it with strings, place mango leaves on its mouth, a coconut in the centre amidst those leaves and pray to the divine forces with all humility, for safeguarding their family, their village, their community and the land as a whole.
This ritualistic festival has multiple layers of meanings. The women are known to always pray for their family, their loved ones, their community, their village and their land. They hardly pray for themselves. This shows the beauty of the innate selfless nature of the women of this land.
When the women pray to the Kalasam filled with water and wrap it with strings, among the other ritual meanings, one sublime expression is the bond of the women with water. The women by tying this string express their binding with water. It is a bonding borne out by the fact that most of the rivers of this land are named after women, save for a few such as Brahmaputra.
Water being the root, route for prosperity, the binding between women and water also denotes the binding of women with prosperity of the family, household, land and society. It shows women in the light of Lakshmi, the Divinity for wealth, prosperity and happiness.
This Varalakshmi Vratam festival denotes the nature of motherhood, the selflessness of motherhood, the bonding of mother, the women with the waters, the abundance of the feeling of love and care in women, the abundance of their love and care for Nature and the abundance in Mother Nature itself.
We have all heard this word, being mentioned frequently in connection with the freedom struggle of India against the British.
The word Swatantrata connotes independence.
The word Swatantra has two components to it, “swa” and “tantra.”
“Swa” denotes self and “tantra” stands for sciences, techniques, practices of the land, the way we live. In consonance with our surroundings and nature in a sustainable manner.
It is obvious that Swatantrata is not just political independence. It stands for a higher level of freedom, a higher dimension of independence. It is the independence to practice one’s own indigenous lifestyle, that which is sustainable and in consonance with Nature – the nature of the land, the nature of the people, the nature of Nature – Dharma. It is to free oneself from all extraneous influences and act under one’s own will.
It thus stands for the notion of Independence, freedom.
So when our forefathers fought for Swarajya, it was not only a call for self-rule or just a political freedom of India but the overall call was for Swatantrata.
Are we really Swatantra today?
Swaraj is my Birthright
Rajya is to rule. Swa rajya is self rule. This slogan of Swarajya was made popular by one of India’s early freedom fighter, Lokamanya Balganagadhar Tilak, when he raised the clarion call,
“Swarajya is my birth right and I shall have it.”