Sitha is helping Grandma Rukmini clean the puja room in the morning. She is up early today and has some time to chat with Grandma before school.
SITHA: Grandma, you have taught us to touch our parents feet and offer pranams (respectful greeting) every morning before we pray and go to school. Can you tell me why we do this?
GRANDMA: Of course Little One. Have you ever heard the phrase “Matha Pitha Guru Dheivam”?
SITHA: I think we have heard our Sanskrit teacher use it. What does it mean?
GRANDMA: This is a very well known saying in Sanskrit. It translates as, “Mother.Father, Teacher, God.” It means that when we offer our pranams or respect, we should first do so for our mother, then father, followed by the guru and finally God.
SITHA: We offer our pranams to Mother, Father and Guru even before we do so to God? Why Grandma?
GRANDMA: Yes little one. It is your Mother who bears you, brings you into this world and nurtures you. She is the first person to enter your life , take care of you and teach you many things. She is not only responsible for your growth as a child but will care for you all her life. So we offer our pranams to Mother first.
Next comes the Father who also cares for you and gives you whatever is needed. He too teaches you many things and helps in raising you . He comes into your life second, after your mother. Little One always remember that your Mother and Father are the two people in the world who will care for you and love you the most. You must always love and respect them.
SITHA: Of course I love them Grandma and I do try to obey them always!
GRANDMA: (smiles) Coming back to what I was saying, after your Mother and Father the person who comes into your life third, to teach you, is your teacher or Guru. You have many teachers in school who teach you math, art, science, music and so many other things. You should always respect them for imparting their knowledge to you.
The Mother, Father and Teacher together help you to gain knowledge , to grow up to be good children and mould you into responsible adults. You should listen to them as they know what is best for you. When your mother tells you to eat your fruit and vegetables, she knows that your body needs it to be healthy and when your father or teacher tell you to study, they want you to get a good education. They do so because they care for you. They will guide the children in the right direction at all times. Sometimes, when we are young, we don’t always understand why they tell us to do certain things but it is best to follow what they say, as it is for your good.
SITHA : Did they call teachers “Gurus”in the olden days?
GRANDMA: Yes. A Guru is a spiritual teacher who through his teachings, tells us about God or Dheivam and shows us the way to God. Since the Guru comes into our lives after the Mother and Father, he comes third in the hierarchy and through the Guru’s guidance and teachings, we can reach God. So you see, with the help of Mother, Father and finally the Guru we learn and are ultimately led to God!
PRANAMS – to pay respect to God or a person, generally grandparents or parents or other elders. It is done by doing a namasthey or bowing reverentially before them or bending and touching their feet or prostrating before them . The elders in return, give their blessings and best wishes.