Saturday, February 9, 2008


Gayatri is the most suitable one for the title ‘mahamantra’. What is Gayatri mahamantra ? Who is Gayatri Mata ? What symbology does Gayatri represent ? I am trying to explain it here.
Gayatri Mahamantra
Gayatri verily means ‘which saves the singer’- (‘gAyantam trAyate yasmAd gAyatri iti abhideeyate’) .
What is a mantra ? – It is that which protects its chanter- (‘mananAt trayate iti mantra’).
Gayatri initiation is said to be the most significant event in a brahmin’s life. The upanayana is the event that catapults the ordinary boy into a Brahmin. There is a sloka ,’ By birth all are sudras. By only samskAra he comes to be called a twice born’ ( jananAt jAyate sudra:, samskArAt dwija uchyate’). Upanayana and Gayatri diksha form the samskara that the boy gets.
If the Gaytri is such a weapon that gives the Brahmin his very identity, what makes it so special ?
Gayatri- the crest jewel of the Vedas
Gayatri is called the Veda Mata. Krishna says in the Gita ‘ Of all the mantras, I am the Gayatri’ (gAyatri chandasAm aham). Let us see the mantra now

Om Bhurbhuva: sva: |
tatsaviturvarenyam |
bhargo devasya dheemahi |
dhiyo yo na: prachodayAt ||

For those who want to hear the mantra chanted as per the tradition, hear this

The word to word meaning of the mantra
(bhu :)- the earth; (bhuva :)- the intermediate space ; (sva:)- the heaven; (dheemahi)- we meditate(on) ; (tat)- that ; (varenyam)- the adorable; (bharga:)- effulgence; ( savitur devasya)- of the Sun Lord; (ya:)- who ; (prachodayAt)- enlightens; (na:)- our ; (diya)- intellect.
Sloka meaning:
Om. We meditate on the glory of the effulgent Sun Lord who enlightens our intellect.
On the first sight , it seems a prayer for knowledge. But what does it have in its structure or meaning to qualify for the status of a ‘maha mantra’ ? Let us see.
When one first analyses the structure of the sloka one can see
1. that it has five parts.
1. Om 2. bhurbhuva: sva; 3. tatsaviturvarenyam 4. bhargo devasya dheemahi 5.dhiyoyona: prachodayAt
2. bhu bhuva : sva: - The three worlds, also called vyahrutis. Bhur loka is the gross earth. sva loka is the very heaven. The bhuva loka is the intermediate space also called as antariksha.But our Upanishads declare that these worlds are in fact the gross, subtle and causal worlds. Stoola, Sookshma and kArana . The Taitreeya Upanishad gives a very detailed explanation of the vyahrutis. Another stunning discovery of our Rishis is that these represent the very gross, subtle and causal bodies that a person has.
3. tat savitur varenyam- ( the adorable Sun Lord) this is the in praise (of the Lord). ‘Praise’ is the essence of the Rig Veda.
4. bhargo devasya dheemahi- ( we meditate on the Lord’s effulgence) ‘Meditate’ is the essence of Yajur Veda.
5. dhiyo yo na: prachodayAt- ( who enlightens our intellects)- this is the ‘prayer’ part and is the essence of Sama Veda.
2. It starts with Om – the primordial sound of the universe. There is a declaration ( I do not have the source) that the Trimurthis of Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva are within the Gayatri and Gayatri is within the primordial sound of ‘Om’. How ? The answer is in the pranayama mantra of Sandhya Vandana, which is called the extended Gayatri,
om bhu: om bhuva: om sva: om maha: om jana: om tapa: om satyam
om tatsaviturvarenyam bhargo devasya dheemahi dhiyoyona: prachodayAt
om Apo jyoti rasomrutam brahma bhurbhuvassuvarom ||
Om (is the whole containing) the seven vyahrutis . Bhu :, bhuva:, sva:. Maha:,jana:, tapa:, satyam.
Om is the essence of the mantra of tatsaviturvarenyam. bhargo devasya dheemahi, dhiyoyona: prachodayAt.
Om is water, the divine rasa, the nectar, the Brahman itself. Om is bhu: bhuva: suva:.
In short, Om contains everything. It is the seed of creation.
Symbolism of Gayatri
A picture of Gayatri is made based on a sloka from ‘Sarada Tilakam’. Based on this sloka, many pictures of Gayatri as a Goddess Mata were drawn and are available. One picture which remains close to the sloka is given here. Below it the sloka and the meaning is given.

This is the sloka in ‘Sarada Tilakam’, describing the Gayatri mata which is also the dhyana sloka for invoking Gayatri before starting japa during Sandhya Vandanam.
“ muktA vidruma hema neela davalachhAyai, mukhais tree kshanai,
yuktAm indu kalA nibaddha makutAm, tatvArtha varnAtmikam,
gAyatri vardAbhayAngusa kasAs, subram kapAlam ,gadAm,
sankam chakram atharavinda yugalam, hastair vahanteem bhaje"
meaning of the above sloka:-
I sing in praise of Gayatri who has five faces of the colours of pearl, sapphire, gold, blue and white, who has three eyes,who has the crescent moon in Her crown, who is of the form of the (twenty four) letters decribing the tattva, who shows Varada and Abhaya mudra in two hands, and holds the Ankush, Whip, the white Skull, the Gada, the conch, the chakra and the Lotus ( in the other eight hands) - compare this with the image above
Gayatri mata
No doubt, this picture is the symbolic of the sloka and a definite superimposition , which evolved much later. But what is the esoteric meaning of the sloka when viewed in connection with the Gayatri mantra ? Let me try to put togther a coherent picture.
  1. The five faces of Gayatri- the five parts of Gayatri mantra
  2. The crescent moon on the crown, the three eyes, and the skull are symbolic of Shiva- the destroyer
  3. The conch, chakra, gadha , the abhaya mudra denote Vishnu the protector
  4. The Lotus seat is symbolic of Brahma- the creator
  5. The whip , and ankush symbolize Kali, the Sakthi.
In short, Gayatri is symbolized as Sarva devata swarupa.
(For a confirmed brahmachari, however, this above Saguna form of Dhyana is not advised. Only for the Grahasta,the family man, this image of the Gayatri mata for Dharana (focus) is permitted. The celibate should chant Gaytri visualizing it as a light (tejas).
The above will show how this symbolism arrives at the statement that “ Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva are within the Gayatri”.
To summarize,
  1. Gayatri denotes the essence of the three Vedas- Hence She is the Veda Mata
  2. Gayatri is the extension of the primordial sound Om
  3. Gayatri embodies the trimurtis of Brahma, Vishnu and Shiva
  4. Gayatri denotes the subjects as plural, hence even if an individual chants it, the benefits are for Humanity
  5. Gayatri has twenty four letters denoting the twenty four principles
What does one gain by Chanting gayatri ?
Gayatri, if chanted knowing the meaning and with correct pronounciation, can take the Sadhak on a trajectory of spiritual growth away from the self defeating materialistic tendencies. It is always best to take a diksha from a Guru for such a holy undertaking . Gayatri Parivar, an organization based in hardwar, which was founded by Sri Sriram Acharya , is engaged in the great activity of spreading Gayatri to all.

Who Can Chant gayatri ?Gayatri is a universal symbol. It is for every human being. With the varna system gone, it is the duty of every Hindu to keep the divine tradition of Gayatri Japa which is the gateway to the highest spiritual heights. Gayatri is best chanted with pranayama in the morning during sunrise and in the evening during sunset and with an empty stomach. The sandhya vandanam routine is the best for Gayatri Japa since it obeys many injunctions like paying obeisances to various rishis to whom the mantras were revealed. Sandhya vandanam is also best since there are other preparatory kriyas like Achamanam.

I believe you enjoyed this post. There are many many good sites on Gayatri on the net, but still I have tried to fill in some gaps in the available vast resource.