In Hinduism, it’s believed that a Guru or a teacher is the one who removes the darkness of our ignorance. The word Guru is derived from two words, ‘gu’ and ‘ru’. The Sanskrit root ‘gu’ means darkness or ignorance, and ‘ru’ denotes the remover of that darkness. Hence a guru is necessary in order to guide a disciple to their enlightenment. The celebration of Guru Purnima is marked by ritualistic respect to the teacher as in Guru.
According to yogic tradition, Guru Purnima is celebrated as the occasion when Shiva became the first Guru, as he began the transmission of yoga to the Saptarishis. Many Hindus also celebrate the day as Vyasa Purnima in honor of the great sage Vyasa, who is seen as one of the greatest Gurus in ancient Hindu traditions and a symbol of the Guru-Shisya tradition. Vyasa is not only believed to have been born on this day, but also to have started writing the Brahma Sutra on Ashadha Sudha Padyami, which ends on this day. Recitations of Brahma Sutra are organized on this day and are dedicated to him.
Guru Purnima is common to all spiritual traditions in Hinduism, where it is an expression of gratitude toward the teacher by his/her disciple. Hindu ascetics and sanyasis (wandering monks) observe this day by offering puja to their Guru. When observing Guru Purnima, a practitioner will fast and meditate most of the day. They may make a pilgrimage, present gifts to their guru, or read holy books, but most of the day is spent in spiritual contemplation. As time has gone by, this day of observance has expanded to include all kinds of teachers. Irrespective of their religions, Indian academics celebrate this day by thanking their teachers. Many schools, colleges and universities have events in which students thank their teachers and remember past scholars. Alumni visit their teachers and present gifts as a gesture of gratitude.