In India, the Guru (teacher)’s place is very high.
Guru is Brahma – the creator, Guru is Vishnu – the operator and Guru is Shiva – the destroyer. The Guru is the Supreme Lord we salute Him.
Sant Kabirdas placed Guru’s place above the God, because, it is the Guru who gives knowledge about the god.
Main aims of the education are construction of character, intellectual feeling, development of personality, self-purification, relaxation and emphasis on inter disciplinary studies. Education is standard measurement for the culture of a society.
In Indian tradition, place of Gurus is always looked upon and respected as equal to God, Parents and great scholars because they impart knowledge and wisdom to the disciples. In ancient period, the great sages used to be the Gurus, who lived in their ‘Ashram’ or hermitages, called ‘Gurukula’ located in beautiful forests or mountains, away from the social life and its luxuries. These Gurus were master in every aspect of life and had complete knowledge of all the branches of education.
The disciples, irrespective of their family backgrounds, used to go to Guru’s Ashram in early childhood, live with him like a family member of his Guru, serve him like their own parents with dedication and are trained in every aspect of life and philosophy, literature, finance, economics, politics, mathematics, science, administration, fine arts, martial arts etc. Since a disciple lives continuously with his Guru for many years, gradually and unknowingly the habits, character and qualities of his Guru develop in him. It had been a unique system of transformation of knowledge and wisdom.
During course of time, the disciples become well versed in all the branches of knowledge. Once they have finished their education, they have to go through an open examination in front of the family members of Kings, Ministers, Zamindars, Chettiyars, great sages, experts of various streams of education, great scholars, chief of army, connoisseurs of fine arts along with the public. The disciples, with permission and blessings of his Guru, display their talent and expertise to prove them. After succeeding the examination, the disciples offer ‘Guru Dakshina’ to the Guru as a token of their gratitude toward his guru. On acquiring full knowledge, the disciple used to go back to their social life and family to practice their knowledge in their life. Since the disciples acquire their complete knowledge from one Guru only, it is acknowledged as a tradition. Some of the disciples used to opt to be teachers like their Guru, and they pursue their career as teachers to hand over the knowledge, they had acquired from their Guru, to the next generation. Thus, it became a tradition.
Without the mention of Gharana, Guru Shishya Parampara seems incomplete. Different Gharanas are like different flowers and each flower has its own fragrance & excellence. Whatever is considered of high value in Hindustani music, whatever has been contributed to its development, it has all grown under the aegis of the Gharana. In fact, the terms of Hindustani music and Gharana are synonymous. Gharanas are the schools of thoughts and each of them have a different vision for the aesthetic production. The first known Gharana is ‘Kawwal Bachchon Ka Gharana’ of Lucknow of vocal music. These Gharanas were named after the place of their founder Gurus or Ustads. Head of the Gharanas were called ‘Khalifa’ or ‘Ustad’. Later on, many offspring of these Gharanas came into existence by one or the other members of these Gharana, to highlight their own style and individuality. Such Gharanas were known by the name of its founders only. They were very conservative and preserve their compositions in the family only, like own property, which was inherited by their sons only. In absence of their sons, other blood relatives like – son-in-laws and nephews (sons of brother and sister) were included as family members to preserve the tradition; and were promoted according to the preference – son, son-in-law, and nephew; and at last come the disciples. Gharanas were nourished as a family tradition. A Gharana needs a continuity of three generations. In addition to mastering the style of a particular Gharana, artistes of each generation acquired new ideas also according to their individual inclinations and added them to the Gharana tradition.
However, there were monopolies of Gharanas. An Ustad or Guru would never let a disciple come up, regardless of his immense talent; and would promote his own sons or family members having even less talent. Musicians, who did not belong to any strong and well-established Gharana, were often judged harshly and cruelly by the critics; and were looked down only because they did not belong to any established Gharana. A musician, who was member of a certain Gharana might, and often did, change his style, enriching it and expanding it after hearing other musicians and interpreting their ideas in his own way. However, if questioned about this, he had recourse to the shelter of his Gharana. He would claim that there was a precedent for what he had done and would trace it back through his own Gharanas’ tradition. They used to teach only for money.
They never impart full knowledge to the disciples out of the family. They keep deep knowledge in the family only, like their family secrets. Most of the Ustads and Gurus were not thorough in theoretical aspects of the art form, they insist on oral only, practical training and practice. They would not even allow any of the disciples to write a composition. Therefore, many excellent compositions are unknown today; they have finished with the Ustads or Gurus of the Gharanas.