‘Kanyadaan’ a Hindu wedding ritual that carries a deep sentimental significance, is performed by the father of the bride, wherein, he entrusts his daughter to the love of her life. This tradition of taking the fathers hand and placing the grooms on the brides is symbolic of the ‘passing’ same as Guru-Shishya Parampara Perspective.
It is similar in significance to the moment when the church doors open and father and daughter make a grand entrance for a Christian wedding. The bride accompanied by her father walk down the aisle and the father gives his daughter’s hand to the groom.
Concurrently, we have the Guru-Shishya Parampara (teacher-disciple lineage), denoting a genuine relationship between a teacher and the disciples as per Indian culture and many religions like Hinduism, Buddhism, Sikhism and Jainism. As world teachers’ day is around the corner, we look at this ever-evolving relationship in our arts field.
Guru-Shishya Parampara is the tradition of spiritual association and mentoring where knowledge of a specific subject, whether music, dance, drama, vedic, martial arts, architectural or spiritual subjects, are ‘passed on’ from a Guru (teacher) to a Shishya (disciple). To some extent it is similar to the modern times mentor and mentee relationship, albeit entailing an unfathomable emotional and spiritual engagement. As per the ancient scriptures, Guru is considered as the remover of darkness, the bestower of light.
गुशब्दस्त्वन्धकारः स्यात् रुशब्दस्तन्निरोधकः।
अन्धकारनिरोधित्वात् गुरुरित्यभिधीयते॥ १६॥
The syllable gu means darkness, the syllable ru, he who dispels them,
Because of the power to dispel darkness, the Guru is thus named.
— Advayataraka Upanishad, Verse 16
This profound bond between the Guru and Shishya sometimes can even become more empowering than all other relations that a humanoid can endure in a lifetime.
As Aristotle says, “those who educate children well are more to be honoured than they who produce them; for these only gave them life, those the art of living well”.
In modern days, this Guru-Shishya Parampara has become more refreshing when a Guru can even be your friend, sharing and celebrating life, and also your last resort in times of need. Yet the purity of this relation is still upheld as the highest order.
No matter what time and era we belong, this relationship is truly based on the genuineness of the Guru and the commitment, devotion and obedience of the disciple for carrying forward the knowledge received. Under the tutelage of the most respected Gurus, many disciples reach the advanced stage and some even become the subsumed Gurus under the hierarchy of the tree of knowledge.
In the Indian classical dance field, we have a deep-seated Guru-Shishya Parampara undulating from one generation to another. Following the years of hard work and long rehearsals, many disciples even reach the advanced stage and culminate with the ‘Rang Manch Pravesh’ or ‘Arangetram’. These are the substitute names given to the debut on-stage recital of a senior Indian classical dance and music student.
It is seen as the moment of pride for the Guru, Shishya as well as the whole family. Especially as recently seen, the Rang Manch Pravesh and the Arangetram have become a fancy feast for the whole crowd. However, lately this is being seen as the end of the learning cycle.
If marking the end of the learning is not enough, this Guru-Shishya relation becomes more strenuous when it converges with the Kanyadaan. Or, as I call this convergence the ‘Shishyadaan’, a point where a Guru is willing to entrust his/her most precious disciple, to another person, hoping that the person will love, respect and support the Shishya’s artistic journey. It is an emotional and sentiment-laden phase, where a Shishya walks away with all the knowledge that has been received over the years.
At this stage, the disciple promises to carry forward the knowledge. Nevertheless, after this convergence, the real challenge begins. New responsibilities in life, whilst a Shishya steps away from a Guru’s nest into a very competitive arts industry, demands hard work. At times, this split in the rhythm of life and profession can be felt more than others in an artist’s life.
To be clear, what is natural to you may not be the universal way, it may even be an unheard path. However, being an artist does not mean you are always expected to go against the current of life. There are infinite possibilities to surrender and experience life and its pleasures. Some may even believe that the more you resist your natural current of life, the more you confine your creative expression and Rasas.
I believe, no matter in what form or shape, but surrendering yourself to your hearts will always open the doors. This surrendering may come with resistance from within, but welcoming your thoughts effusively is what we can do the finest. Rather, as you practice this unfolding, you may be able to move to the expansive freedom within the creative expression.
More precisely, there isn’t a right or a wrong way to live arts and breathe life. Life and arts may imbue each other or one may overpower the strings of other at certain times. But the balance that you can maintain counts. You purely need to honour the commitment you made as an artist to love your life copiously as you appreciate your heart path, with ease, delight and abundance. Remember that the Rang Manch Pravesh or Arangetram, as the names suggest are ‘the entry on the stage as an artist’. Like a wedding they symbolise a new beginning and passing. We as the Shishyas can just bow to our Gurus and evoke, ‘knowledge is of no value unless put to practice’. In fact, this may be the biggest offering to ourselves and the Gurus in our life.
By Sanchita Abrol