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Sri Gayatri Part one

Rishi Chhandas and Devata

Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi
Diyo yonah prachodayat

-1-

We meditate on the adorable glory
of the radiant Savitr,
May he inspire our intellect.

1.1. Gayatri Mantra that is recited daily by millions of devout is indeed very ancient;
and is regarded the most sacred of all mantras. The tradition accords Gayatri an
unrivalled importance.

1.2. Gayatri is a mantra dedicated to Savitr; and is not a prayer in the ordinary sense of
the term. A mantra - a specific structure of sound patterns coded in syllables and
vowels - may be articulate or inarticulate; it may or may not convey a meaning. But,
its relevance is in its inherent shakthi. Its subtle sounds or the abstract language
attempts to visualize the un-differentiated divine principle. The accent, intonation and
articulation too play a role in the efficacy of a mantra. A prayer, prarthana, is a
submission; and it has a meaning and a philosophical significance. Prarthana has an
intellectual appeal. Mantra is beyond intellect. Gayatri, it is said, is both mantra and
prarthana, a profound invocation. It has the intrinsic shakthi of mantra; as also the
intense devotion and reverence of prarthana. It signifies a determined aspiration for
enlightenment.

1.3. Gayatri is essentially symbolic (sanketa vidya), inspiring righteous wisdom. It
points to the absolute reality (Brahman) conditioned by names and forms as settled in
solar orb, the visible form of divinity. The mantra formulates the nature of oneself and
also the nature of Brahman, the supreme Consciousness (para-brahma nirupanam).

The name

-2-

4.1. Brihadaranyaka Upanishad (5.14.5) mentions that the mantra in Gayatri
chhandas dedicated to Savitr – Devata was initially known as Savitri mantra. It says:
‘the people were calling that mantra in Gayatri chhandas as Savitri’ (Gayatri-meva
Savitri-manu-bhruyaath), because it was addressed, in particular, to Savitr (Savitr
iyam). Another authority, Manu (2.77 and 2.81), also names the mantra as Savitri; and
avers

‘there is no mantra that is superior to Savitri’ (Savitryastu param naasti: Manu –
2.83). Other texts (for e.g. Maitri Upanishad: 6.2) too declare that ‘Savitri mantra with
pranava and vyahrti is the best means (na savitrah paro mantrah) to attain Brahman’.

4.2. It is said; in course of time, the Savitri mantra came to be celebrated as Gayatri
mantra because of its structure in classic Gayatri chhandas. The Savitri-mantra, it is
believed, articulates, as few other mantras do, the special merits of the
Gayatri-chhandas.

5.1. The name ‘Gayatri’ - as the title of the mantra - acquired several meanings. It is
explained that the term Gayatri is derived from the root ‘traing’ (paalana) which
means ‘to protect’. Expanding on that explanation,Chandogya Upanishad says: ‘This
mantra called Gayatri in Gayatri-chhandas protects one who chants it. That is why it is
called Gayatri’ (Gayatri trayate cha - Ch.Up.). Satapatha Brahmana (14.8.15.7) in a
similar manner explained Gayatri as that which protects (tattre) sense-faculties
(including mind) and the life-principles (prana) which are called ‘gaya’: (prana vai
gayaasthan trayati- tasmat Gayatri).

5.2. It is said; Gayatri is itself the prana; and, in prana reside all the Devata-s, the
energies and activating faculties. And thus; all knowledge, action and the
consequences thereof become united in Gayatri. Being prana, Gayatri is the very self
of all existence (jagatah atma).

-3-

5.3. Yaska-charya explains the term Gayatri by changing the order (sequence) of its
syllables (Varna –vyatyaya). He says that Gaya-tri, in fact, could as well be read and
understood as tri-gaya, as having three modes of articulation body (rupeshu), speech
(vachasi) and mind (manasi).That is to say; Gayatri inspires or finds expression in our
mental process, speech behaviour and physical activities.

5.4. But largely, the term Gayatri has acquired the meaning ‘as that which protects the
one who recites it mindfully (gayantam trayate yasmad gayatri smarata budhaih)’.
There is a firm faith that Gayatri protects the devout from various evils and sins.

Therefore, Gayatri mantra became a vital part of the daily prayers known as Sandhya.
Not merely that; the Gayatri mantra became so important that its recitation by itself
came to be known as Sandhya. That is because, it is explained, Gayatri mantra merits
‘perfect meditation’ (samyak dhyanavat sandhya).

[There is another rik in the fifth mandala of Rig-Veda Samhita (5.82.1) that strongly
resembles Gayatri mantra. Its Rishi is Syavasva-Atreya (also called Syavasva
Archanasa, meaning the son of Archanas); its Devata is also Savitr; and it is in
Anushtup chhandas. Anukramani, the Vedic glossary, describes it as ‘the other Savitri’
(ity uktatvat savitram)

'tat savitur vrnīmahe vayam devasya bhojanam |

śrestham sarvadhātamam turam bhaghasya dhīmahi ||

We crave of Savitar the God this treasure much to be enjoyed. The best, all-yielding,
conquering gift of Bhaga we would gladly win (Translation by Ralph T H Griffith)

The Rishi

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6.1. Rishi in the Rig-Vedic context is a wise seer, illumined, expressing the Truth
revealed to him (ninya vachasmi).A Kavi is the most exalted Rishi. He is a drastara, a
visionary (darsanat), the one who sees the unseen (kavihi-krantha-darshano-bhavathi).
One cannot be a Kavi unless one is a Rishi (naan rishir kuruthe kavyam). It is his
intuition (prathibha) and expanded consciousness that inspire him to express
spontaneously. Such inspired poetry raised to sublime heights is mantra.

6.2. The Rishi not only gives utterance to a mantra but also is at the very essence, core,
of the mantra (Badarayana Sutra: 244:36). The Rishi or the Kavi, through his
all-pervasive consciousness becomes one with his creation. Yaska-charya, therefore,
speaks of close empathy, unison between the creator and his creation; and says that
each tends to become a part of the other. In the later Samhitas, the Rishi-s came to
be revered as icons of the sacred past; and their deeds were narrated as if they were the
deeds of gods or of Asura the ancient ones.

7.1. The sixty-second Sukta is the last in the third mandala of Rig-Veda. This Sukta
has eighteen mantra-s; and, the entire Sukta is ascribed to Rishi Visvamitra. The first
three mantras of this Sukta are in Trishtup-chhandas; while the rest are in Gayatri
chhandas. Of the eighteen mantras, those numbering ten to twelve are dedicated to
Savitr; while the other mantras have Indra- Varuna, Brhaspathi, Pushan, Soma and
Maitra-varuna as the Devata-s.

-5-

It is surmised. There have been sages in the Vedic literature. in Puranas and in Epics who carry the name of Visvamitra. MadhuchandasVaiśvāmitra is well known.were a family of traditional purohita-s. 8. were the followers of sage Angirasa.. Visvamitra.2. 8. Visvamitra . But the most debated of Visvamitra’s decedents is surely Sunahsepa.. The decedents of Kushika – Kaushika . 8.13-18)brings together Visvamitra and the lad -6- . and.it is said.24). was the son of King Kaushika-Ushiratha (meaning. it is in Gayatri chhandas.2. But. It is said. 8.7. the descendents of Kushika.121). especially devoted to worship of Indra. Visvamitra is a celebrated name in the Indian traditions. Visvamitra also helped Bharatas in crossing the rivers Vipasa (Beas) and Satadru (Sutlej) that were in full flow . its Devata is Savitr. 8. 8. The Visvamitra and his sons mentioned in several other passages of the Rig-Veda are also described as Kausika-s.1. the family priests of Kings.5. induced the waters to subside (RV: 3.The Bharatas.4.6. and its Rishi is Visvamitra.7.) is ascribed to Madhuchandas. He is the Rishi of the first hundred-and-two mantras of Rig-Veda. As said earlier. He is the contemporary of another great sage Vashista to whom about one hundred - and . The first mantra of Rig-Veda (Agni mele purohitam.3. Ushiratha the son or the descendent of Kushika) who was valorous as the thousand-eyed Indra himself (sahasraksha-dyuti). apparently engaged in a raid. As many as forty-six Suktas and a number of other mantras in Rig-Veda Samhita are ascribed to Rishi Visvamitra. Visvamitra mentioned in Rig-Veda is a great Rishi. found it difficult to cross the rivers in high flood.earlier known as Visvaratha . Visvamitra of Rig-Veda is named in the Sarva-Anukramani (a sort of Index providing basic information about each hymn of Rig-Veda) as ‘Gathino-Visvamitrah’- the descendent of Gathi (the King of Kanyakubja?). Among the many sons of Visvamitra. This Kushika is a mythical figure. Yaska-charya recognizes Visvamitra as the purohita of King Sudasa (Nirukta: 2. They could be the descendents of an ancient Rishi renowned as Visvamitra. It is the tenth mantra of this Sukta that has come to be celebrated as Gayatri mantra.four Suktas are ascribed. And the term Kushika is also an epithet for Indra. 8. A story narrated in Aitareya Brahmana (7. hence he earned the title ‘Satarchina’. by prayers. and. all those sages may not refer to one and the same person.

places him below the biological (aurasa) sons (2.11) as ‘Gayatra’ or ‘Gayatram’. that out of 10. but. the boy Sunahsepa came to be known as kritrima – vaisvamitro –devaratah. Bahudayana Dharma-Sutra (2.1.2. in fact. Jagati chhandas with Visvedeva-s. the boy gave up his family and selected Visvamitra as his father.20).3. the first and the foremost of the Vedic deities without whom no ritual is possible. 10. Visvamitra adopted Sunahsepa Ajigarti as his son. The Gayatri chhandas is referred to in Rig-Veda (1. Chhandas is the joy in structuring the syllables and words of the mantra (chhandayati ahlada-dayani chhandas -Amara Kosha 3.2. Hence. Chhandas 9.251) in Rig-Veda are in Trishtup chhandas. And. The later text Vasishta Dharma- sutra (17.28) classifies such an adopted-son as one among twelve types of sons. Chhandas is the very basis of the structure and of the import of Vedic hymns (chandah paadau tu vedasya.33-35) cites this as an example of a case where a boy gives himself in adoption. the metrical form. -7- . Gayatri chhandas is associated with Agni.Sunahsepa Ajigarti (son of the poor and greedy Ajigarta Sauyavasi). one has to unravel. Trishtup chhandas is associated with Indra. And.32). the largest numbers of mantras (4.12.3. the rest (1. It also sets the rhythm for chanting of the mantra. The hymns 24-30 in the first mandala and the third hymn of the ninth mandala of Rig-Veda are ascribed to him. and.346) are in Jagati chhandas. is the name of one of the metrical forms (chhandas) adopted in Rig-Veda. untie the covering of chhandas (chandaamsi chhadanaath . the god-given non-natural son of Visvamitra.Paniniya Shiksha – 41).17) as descendants of Sunahsepa Devarata Vaisvamitra. Sunahsepa grew into a great Rishi. or rather. It is said. It is said. The later Rishis. 10.456 are in Gayatri chhandas. But. Another text.Nirukta – 8. Gayatri.3. the Kapileya-s and the Babhrava-s are mentionedin the Aitareya Brahmana (7.552 mantras in Rig-Veda Samhita as many as 2.1. It is said.11) in order to fathom the true intent of the mantra. one cannot truly comprehend a Vedic mantra without out a good understanding of its chhandas. Chhandas enlivens and articulates the meaning of the mantra.2.

34) regards Gayatri as the mother of all the chhandas (gayatrim chhandasaam mata). Trishtup. Incidentally.tapa -iti (3). the line of Gayatri chhandas having eight letters* in association with Pranava (Aum) as the ninth letter (navakshara vai). the six main chhandas that follow thereafter has each four syllables more than it’s preceding one (e. Anushtup.Ashti . Gayatri chhandas has twenty-four syllables. That is the reason. [* The fourteen types of chhandas employed in Vedic texts are listed as : Gayatri. The root of the term Gayatri is ‘gai’ (sabde) which denotes the sense of sound or speech or singing. indeed. And.g. Because of that. Ushnik. The rik-s in Sama-Veda are therefore mostly in Gayatra-chhandas. Jagati the seventh chhandas has 4x12 = 48 syllables).5) expands on that and says that rik-s in Gayatri-chhandas are ideal for singingthe praises of deities (gayateh stuti-karmanah).15). it is required to be made -8- . in accordance with the characteristics of the Gayatri chhandas (metrical form) in which it is composed. Brhati. Yaska-charya (Nirukta: 7. Ushnik.21. Ati. by itself forms the first half of the Yajna (purvardha vai yajnasya Gayatri – SB: 3.19) declares the mantra in Gayatri chhandas is Agni himself (Gayatri va Agnihi. It is regarded the first (head: atah shirah) and the basic metrical form.4. Jagati .1.] 10. Gayatri chhandas is invested with great sanctity. Dhruthi . Ati – Shaktari . 11. and.3. it is the best. Shaktari . it is said. the first and the foremost of the Vedic deities. As said earlier. and .16.3.12.Jagati . It is also said. Among the fourteen* types of important chhandas used in the Vedic texts.1. Satapatha Brahmana (6. this refers to the eight letters of the subtle and mystical fourth-line (Turiya paada) of Gayatri: paro (2).4. [* Some say. and Agnir vai Gayatri).1. it is explained. And. Trishtup . that Agni. Almost all the Samhitas (excepting Krishna-yajurveda) begin in Gayatri chhandas.) ] 10. is the face (mouth) of Gayatri (tasya Agni-reva mukham). Brhati. Gayatri is the shortest (with twenty-four matras). As regards the Gayatri mantra. Ati – Dhruthi . Gayatri chhandas is associated with Agni. born of Brahman (Brahma –yoini).5. and. Jagati. Pankthi. Ashti . That is the reason. Taittiriya – Aranyaka (10. all the mantras in this chhandas are of special significance. the rik-s in Gayatri chhandas lend themselves to singing rather easily (gana-anukula-rik). ya (1). the seven horses yoked to Sun-god’s chariot are named: Gayatri.10. Anushtup and Pankthi (SB: 5. rajas (2). and as onethat signifies Brahman in three letters (tri-akshare Brahma-vaadini). pra. the opening mantras of all the Yajna-s are in Gayatri chhandas. Ati.

Gayatri is at once the name of the mantra. that is. arranged in three lines (tripaada). the alternate way is to split last matra ‘nyam’ into two: ‘ni’ and’ yam’. and is hailed as Tri-rupa Gayatri. in order to render the line in eight matra-s. indeed becomes an integral part of Gayatri-mantra. the name of the chhandas. Gayatri is also hailed tri-akshare Brahma-vaadini. Then the first paada would read:ॐ ॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐॐ And.vi –tur -vr-re-nyam) has only seven matra-s. the last matra of the third line ‘yat’ is taken to be one matra. the one who signifies Brahman in three letters.2. Gayatri is most usually explained or interpreted in terms of triads. Gayatri is trinity. and is also the name of the Goddess Gayatri Mata. the Pranava. For similar reasons. Pranava. The requirement of the chhandas is satisfied in either of two ways: One. Tri-rupa Gayatri 12.of twenty-four letters. the first line of the mantra (tat-sa. thus. Gayatri as mantra -9- . And. 11. akshara or matra (Gayatri chaturvimsatyakshara). Om (ॐ) is added at the commencement of the first paada to make it eight-lettered (adi –omkara.1. But. the mantra is made of nine words. each paada having eight letters (ashtaksharatmaka-paada).sahita astakshara).

The key word here is ‘dhiyah’ in the third paada of the mantra (dhi yo nah prachodayat) signifying ritual-actions (karma). it signifies creation and inspiration (suute). and the third with Sarasvathi. is that which moves. Yajus and Sama. which in turn is identified with Yajur-veda. and with each of the three Vedas. activates and enlivens (padyase).And. To start with. clear speech (gai-sabde). Further.The second paada of the mantra is identified with the second matra of Pranava ‘U’ (u-kaara). Following that. Taittiriya-Aranyaka (10. Gayatri as a mantra structured in three lines (tri-paada). The Shandilya Upanishad (1. :. -10- .1. And again.13.2. etymologically. Gayatri is celebrated as the mother of all Vedas – Veda Mata (AV: 19.71.35) describes.The first paada of the Gayatri mantra is identified with the first matraof Pranava ’ Aa’(a-kaara) . :. which in turn is identified with Rig-Veda.The first paada of the Gayatri mantrais associated with Savitri who represents dawn. 13.The second paada of the Gayatri mantra is associated with Gayatri as vak. Savitri and Sarasvathi. a paada (foot).The third paada of the mantra is identified with the third matra of Pranava ‘M’ (ma-kaara). The verb ‘dhimahi’ in the second paada of the mantra (bhargo devasya dhimahi) is of importance here. The word ‘Savitr’ in the first paada of the mantra (tat Savitr varenyam) is of essence here. which in turn corresponds to Sama-Veda. and. :.1).1. each paada of the mantra is identified with each aspect of Gayatri – Gayatri.17) identifies the first matra of Pranava with Gayatri. Each of the three paada-s is identified with a Veda: Rg.3. There also other interpretations. it signifies precise articulation (gaana-kriya). and. each paada of the mantra is also identified with each of the three matra-s (syllable) of the Pranava Aum. 14. The third paada of the Gayatri mantra is associated with Sarasvathi (uninterrupted rituals). 13. the second matra with Savitri.

that is actually meant. It is vak.12.Up. Accordingly.3) 14. apart from the conditioned aspects of knowledge.3. therefore. (Ch. Adhyatma. And. when human body is referred to as the foundation (aadhara).14. it is the heart (hrudaya). and. Adhi-Daivata. and. The prithvi.11. it is as vak Gayatri is all pervasive (Gayatri vak vai gayatriti) .1. this is Savitr in its true nature.2. Gayatri mantra too is interpreted. For. Gayatri is revered as the very foundation (adhistana) of all beings and objects. the life-centre of all existence. 14. absolute aspect to the mantra. representing the vital currents (prana). it is vak representing all the elements .(Vak va Gayatri.The essential power of the mantras are to transport us to the world of ideas beyond the ordinary and to experience the sublime ideals that its Rishi envisioned. with special reference to its Devata Savitr. un-conditioned and beyond relative existence. and. Gayatri. in terms of: Adhi-Yajna. traayate cha).4. (We shall come to this a little later). Savitr has to be realized in the space within (antar-akasha). as all existence is established on earth. Ultimately. vak va idam sarva-bhutam . The Chandogya Upanishad (3. Yaska-charya mentions that mantras have three layers of meaning (traye artha). in turn. Gaayati cha. Gayatri as Devata -11- . 15. vital current etc there is an un-conditioned. it is vak (speech) in the sense of mantra (gaayati) the recitation of which protects one who recites (traayate) . In these traditional texts.functions (indriya kriya). represents the heart-lotus (hrudaya pundarika). present and future. in the depths of one’s heart-lotus (daharam pundarikam). all the vital currents (hrudi praane) and sense-functions are established (prathistitha) in the heart.3. Gayatri is not mere aggregate of letters.1) says that Gayatri signifies all beings: past. Gayatri represents earth (prithvi). the very core of the being. stands for human body on which are settled all the vital-currents (sarve-pranah) and sense. hence is called a-pada. Brahman is its essence.

having Visvamitra as Rishi (Vishwamitra Rishih) andSavitr as Devata (Savitaa Devataa). bhuta (beings). The mantra itself is Devatha. In the Dhyana-sloka submitted to Gayatri. she is celebrated both as the mantra and as also the goddess. having twenty-four syllables(Chaturvimsaty-aksharaa). the fair and bright (swetavarnaa) Gayatri descends from the Gotra of Rishi Samkhyayana (saamkhyaayana sa gotra). and as saguna. the mantra and the goddess unite.As mantra. The worshipper awakens and enlivens the potent Goddess residing in his heart-cave.As Goddess.2. Gayatri(Gayatryah) is described as being in the form of Gayatri chhandas (Gayaree Chhandah). : . She is endowed with five -12- . Gayatri – the mantra and the chhandas – are personified as the Goddess.16. by her/his devotion and earnestness. The Mother as nirguna is the form-less vachya-shakthi. :. Her mantra is of six kinds (Shatkukshih) embodying the principles of: Vak (speech). she is the presiding deity of the Gayatri mantra. sarira (body). 16. Gayatri is composed of three lines(Tripadaa). The hymn addressed to Gayatri (Gayatryah). hrudaya (heart) and prana (vital currents). prithvi (earth).1.

Gayatri is the protector of life principles. Savitri and Sarasvathi. As Gayatri in the morning she is Bramha svarupini. Rudra is her tuft (Radrah Sikhaah ) and the earth is her generator(Prithivi Yonih). also because she combines in herself the three goddesses: Gayatri.Agni glows in her face(Agnirmukham ). Savitri of Satya (Truth and integrity of all Life). 17. the Goddess. is hailed as Tri-rupa –Gayatri. Gayatri herself represents all three savana-s (Gayatri vai sarvani savanani). as Savitri in the mid-day she is Rudra svarupini. and. 17. 17. Vyana.heads (Panchaseersh). Savitri in the midday (madyanh savana) and Sarasvathi in the evening (saayam savana) - [Aitareya Brahmana-13. Apana.3. it is also said. Brahma is in her head (Brahma Shiro). Udana and Samaana ).25]. Gayatri as Devata.1.Vishnu resides in her heart(Vishnur hridayam). She is said to manifest in three forms as: Gayatri in the morning (pratah-savana).2. Sarasvathi of the wisdom and virtues of life. midday and evening). She is Trinity herself. She represents the five vital currents(Praana.She presides over Upanayana (upanayaney viniyogah ). and as Sarasvathi in the evening she is Vishnu svarupini. But. Gayatri is associated with three ‘savana-s’ (morning. -13- .

Savitr is sometimes taken as Surya. Goddess Gayatri is revered as the sum or the aggregate (samasti svarupini) of all that is divine (Sarvadevata Svarupini. His mantra says: “We contemplate on the adorable brilliance of god Savitr. Maheshwari in the evening 17. ranging over the ritualistic. The Devata 18. She is Brahmi in the morning. philosophical and esoteric understanding of the term Savitr. the symbol of light that invokes radiance in hearts of beings. after daybreak he is Surya*. But. he is the Devata of the mantra. The Gayatri mantra is addressed to Savitr. not as Surya.17.5. Savitr is conceived as the power to dispel darkness.Savitr is an ancient Vedic deity. He is the awakening that impels men and creature to action. and. at times. in this sense. and. and. Vaishnavi and Maheshwari as three aspects of Goddess Gayatri. At one level. Sarvamantra Svarupini) . here. also. :.1. These explanations and interpretations are spread over a wide spectrum. may he inspire our intellect”. is the one who inspires or gives rise to Sun. Savitr.Savitr. [*The scholars tend to view Savitr more as a splendid concept than as a natural phenomenon.] -14- .4.Gayatri vai idam sarvam. He is an independent god in his own right. Savitr is also the motive power. Vaishnavi in the midday. is the aspect of Sun before daylight. Mahanirvana Tantra regards the Matrka –Trinity of Brahmi. The Rig-Vedic god Savitr is understood and interpreted in varieties of ways.

it is said.At other places in the Samhitas. for a beginner. Savitr is identified with one’s mind. :. or understood in silence as ‘that One’ the Supreme principal Brahman. Savitr is verily the Absolute Parabrahman. Savitr is a representation of Paramatman free from attributes.:. the first syllable of the mantra ‘tat’ could be taken either as a neuter pronoun meaning ‘that’. Savitr. Prajapathi. Savitr might appear a functional deity. speech and deeds. and is perceived in meditation (dyatatvat). It is said. Savitr residing in the solar orb is the symbol of Brahman (asaavaadityo Brahma).Savitr the luminous one (divyati prakashata iti) is also the Purusha who resides in the heart –lotus of the devotees (hrudayaravinde). Savitr as Vedic god -15- . :. here. is the inner-light that illumines. enlivens. Savitr is variously identified with Agni. Let’s look at some of these aspects. or with their aspects. but to the seer.And again. consciousness and with one’s own self (antaryamin). :. Following that. At another level. Visvedeva and Surya. Soma.Ultimately. prompts and inspires (su-preraka) all our thoughts.

He protects the universe (vishvam bhuvanam dharayistathi: RV: 4. the rains. And. settled beyond interference (aturte). between the two is the mid-region where Savitr has settled Soma (aturte baddham Savita). The earth fully established by Savitr (RV: 10. dispelling darkness and sorrows. following the emergence of Ushas the goddess of dawn. His chariot and its shaft. He is associated with the clouds. to stimulate and to illumine ones heart and mind (RV: 3. On his ancient path.2) and blesses all beings (sakala shreyamsi dhatrunam).62. pre-eminently. without any support.54. and illumines the sky.Savitr as the Devata of the mid-region. here. all the elements and gods are subject to his law.3.19. And.1. Savitr governs the cosmic order Rta. and his speech is clear and sweet. the heaven which he holds afloat.2. Soma. classifies Savitr both among the Devatha-s of the mid-region (madhyama –sthana) as also among the Devatha-s of the upper-realms (dyus-sthana). The other gods follow him. filling all directions with his boundless golden lustre (hiranyim amitam) seeing all creatures. the earth and the mind. he holds afloat the sky (akashbhane) without visible support (aalambanam tad-rahite). He is pictured. made of gold (ratham hiranya pra-ugam vahantah –RV: 1. symbolizes the alert mind which is guided by Savitr along the right path -16- . is the consciousness.1.4-5). white-footed horses adorned with pearls (krsnavant). 20. and. and conveys the departed ancestors (pitris) to where the righteous dwell.2.35. and having a golden-tongue. His countenance of golden splendour is pleasing. as a golden deity adorned with golden-eyes. easily and happily. The yellow-haired (haridra kesi) Savitr rises up from the east. he protects his worshippers. are drawn by two or more brown.149. He rises aloft his strong golden arms extending to ends of earth (hiranya divo antha anustam: RV: 7. establishes (sthiram akarat) the earth (prihvim) firmly. golden – arms and golden-hands.45. venerable god to inspire. Yaska-charya. Everything about him is beautiful and brilliant. 19. the great grammarian and etymologist of very ancient India. He moves across the sky seated in his bright golden chariot (shubrabhyam yajato haribhyam). Savitr according to Yaska-charya 20. And. He is celebrated in eleven entire Suktas and in many separate stanzas as well. Savitr is an ancient (Asura) Vedic god of the upper regions (dyu-sthana). 19.1) symbolizes matter.Prayers are submitted to this glowing.4).10).

Vi-suparna (possessed of splendid forms). 22. is the Devata par excellence. again.23. Savitr is Satya. He inspires all (Savita sarvasya preraka) to move upwards towards the heavens viz. ‘sushtu neta’). time and circumstances. The humans must follow the course of Savitr (satya) and accomplish their tasks (devasya Savithuhu karma kurvanthu manavaha – AV: 6. and. with form and without form. In that context. present and future. Satya is the Truth of Being: and. He is the sight of the human beings who can see (nrchaksha). Savitr is the most adorable . and to tread on the right path. Savitr Devata is related to both. It is also said. the higher reaches of consciousness. And. and projects the earth and sky alike. the source of all order and the true-principles (satya-dharma) that govern all existence. just as Savitr does (RV: 10. Savitr in the upper-realms (dyus-sthana).symbolized by solar orb.10. as the one who knows all the past.(Savitr is therefore called ‘Sunita’. the omniscient. He illumines the earth as well as the atmosphere and the highest realms (nrchaksha yeva devo madhya aastha aa prapivaan rodhasi anthariksham – RV: 10. explains the term Savitr as the progenitor. Rta is the truth of becoming.110. Savitr is the inner-light. Savitr is one with Varuna who represents Satya the Absolute Truth.1. Savitr. for it is the essence of all things – living and nonliving.130. Yaska-charya calls Savitr as Kavi. prompts (su-preraka). He releases (prasuta) actions from their un-manifest states.4.34) cites a mantra from Rig-Veda comparing Savitr with another Vedic god Tvashtr.9).2. the one who gives birth to all things (Savitr sarvasya prasavita: Nirukta. in association with Soma is variously described as ‘Asura’ the giver of life (prana-daata).3).‘varenyam’. He is the very soul of all that moves and all that stays in the world. inspires and guides all to engage in good thoughts and right actions. in that sense. the inner controller (antaryamin). As a solar god Savitr is related to Truth and to the cosmic order Rta. Yaska-charya. The skillful Tvashtr provides form to objects (Tvashta rupani pimsatu: 10. 20.3) 22. According to Yaska-charya. abiding in the midst of the heart-space (hrudayakasha). Rta the cosmic order conditioned by space.3.2).1. He is the one who draws out sublime thoughts from the womb of mystery. described as the son of Visvamitra. Yaska-charya (Nirukta: 10. and brings them to light for the benefit of all. The Rishi of this mantra is Prajapathi. And. 20. Savitr is hailed as the most real (satya). -17- . He is the seer of the beyond. 21.184).

as also of the minds and hearts of humans. Savitr is also conceived as the visible representation of the year of twelve months (kapala) . 23. the child of waters. -18- . he is described as the ascending flames of Agni (urdhvam keturn). Savitr also is Apam-napath. Savitr is invoked at the commencement of the Yajna with prayers for the successful completion of a Yajna (Savitr yajnam pranayeti). the solar deity is at times identified with Surya as also with Agni who is a Devata of Prithvi-sthana.4.(dwadasa –kapalah savitro bhavati. the earth .Savitr and Agni 23. 23. 23. and it is surrounded by an altar made of fifteen bricks (ishtaka) symbolizing fifteen days of the first half of the month (purva-paksha). Savitr as Agni is the purifier of all things (pavaka). during the Yajna. dwadasa vai masah samvathsarasya). or of the latter half of the month (apara-paksha) . Savitr becomes the inner-being (antaryamin) and the inspirer (preraka) that dwells in the heart of the performing priest (adhvaryu). In the context of Yajna. Savitr. When Savitr is associated with Agni.1. jyotis surya svaaha). the favorite epithet of Agni. The presence of Savitr is symbolized by a circle drawn in the yajna-vedi.region (agnir jyotih. Along with Agni. At another level.2. Savitr becomes a part of the Yajna.3.

2) . when born they live by food. In every Sukta addressed to Savitr there are mantras which praise Soma. the moon (adhi-daivata) and the mind (adhyatma). Prayers are submitted to Soma to provide food that is free from contamination and that is free from danger (anamiva ishaskrath) to humans (dvi-paade) and to the animals (chatush-paade).1.1. Soma as the gentle devoured substance is the partner of Agni the fiery devouring spirit (annada).Savitr and Soma 24. and he shines along with the sun (Soma Suryena rochate -RV: 9. truly.2. 25. Soma is often described as bright (aruna bhabru).6). the drink (adhi-yajna). Its esoteric meaning is taken as that which provides reality or substance to the un-manifest (satyvataraya agnau suyate tasmat-somah). Soma is requested to prolong our lives (ayur-vardaya) by driving away threats and dangers. 25. Savitr the Devata of Gayatri mantra is closely associated with Soma. Soma in the Vedic context has many references: as plant (adh-bhautika). Just as with Savitr. for. and when they are dead they themselves become food “(Taittereya Upanishad 3. fascinating (sona) and luminous (hari). Food is the principle of all. the beings are born from food. Soma is closely associated with Surya too.2. Soma the substance of the universe is ‘food (anna)’. Soma is the eye of the -19- . If Surya is the eye of the gods (asau vaa aditya devaanam chakshasu).

the mind that helps us to reach Savitr.5. strength or ability (daksha). Hiranya-stupa prays to Soma to lead him to Savitr or Surya (tvam Surye na aa bhaje – RV: 9. the purifier. 26. efficient and far-reaching mind (daksho devanaam asi –RV: 9. Archan earned the epithet of Savitarchan. 25.He is the Lord of the Yajna . 25.2). The secrets of all the senses are laid bare by the shining Soma (devo devaanam guhyani nama-avishkrnoti –RV: 9. pitris (Chandrama vai pitrnam chakshuh).manes. Soma represents the evolved. and one who assigns to each Deva his share in the Yajna (bhagam devabhyo vidadhatyayan ). In his adoration of Savitr (Somasyevamsum prati. hidden (kratu-vid) and revealed (kavi kratu).The Rishi of this mantra is Archan.1-3). Following that. Soma is called here Samudra meaning not only vast but also ever – active mind.4. In all these references. As regards the son Archan.2. medhira .4. Because of his devotion to Savitr. He is the lord of all speech (somo raja vaksah). the leader of thoughts (neta matinaam) . the son of Hiranya-stupa who in turn was the son of the most celebrated Rishi Angirasa.3. Archan invokes the lustrous (amsu) Soma. if one is the sight.85. Soma is the symbol of mind (Chandrama manaso). He is the true source of inspiration to reach Savitr.3.1. 25. Incidentally. 26. well ordered. I may mention that there is in the Rig-Veda a hymn (149 of the tenth mandala) associated with Savitr (Savitr pratipaadaka Hiranya –stupa mantra) . the other is the insight. he describes Soma as ‘the other principle’ (anyad abhavat) which came into being after (paschath) Savitr.jagaraham). Hiranya-stupa (father of Archan) adores Soma variously as light (jtothi). the mind which operates creatively and ceaselessly.4. bliss (svar) .He is the true (dhira) knower of all things ( manishi. unruly and impetus horse (asvam ivadhukshat dhunim). Both the father and the son in their hymns addressed to Savitr also praise Soma – pavamana. the -20- .vipra) here and beyond (visvavid).5).2). If Surya is the symbol of eyes (chaksho Surya). Soma is presented as the very soul of sense-function (atmendriyasya bhavasi dhasir uttamah).95. Soma is symbolized as the parent of all mind-process (pita matinaam). 26. Thus. wisdom (kratu) and protection (uti) – (RV:9.the protector of wisdom (patir dhiyah) and the master of mind (manasas patih). He is projected in the image of a powerful.

as a solar deity.1) gained fame as ‘the other Savitri’ (ity uktatvat savitram). Savitr is Surya when present below the horizon. for. The Vedic mantras adore the Devatha-s of the upper realm (dyus sthana) by these and other names. 26. Savitr. 27. and. Surya is the later form of Savitr. are of solar-spirit. illumining the entire world.4. [please see Note to paragraph 5. after daybreak the Sun is called Surya (Surya iti). Savitr is the one that brings forth Surya who causes the day. Following the family tradition. in essence. Vrshakapi the one becomes red and ascends the sky like a bull.3.4 above] Savitr and Surya 27. Some say. here. he was one of the Adityas. Vaisvanara the one who assumes varied forms. His rik appearingin the fifth mandala of Rig-Veda Samhita (5.one who bestows the wealth of the earth as also that of the heaven (dvi-barhasam rayim). In other words. 27. they all. Keshi the one who provides light (pra-kasam).And .2. Their several aspects and functions are described variedly as: Pushan the one who nourishes. prays to Soma to lead him to Savitr.82. but not -21- . is conceived as an aspect of Sun before daylight (udayat purvabhavi). Thus. Savitr just as the other Devatha-s of the upper realm (dyus sthana) is a solar deity. Savitr.1. Archan’s son Syavasva Archanasa also composed hymns devoted to Savitr. dispels darkness and makes way for dawn. Vishnu the one who pervades. and.

Savitr is the emerging rays of light (urdhva bhanum savita devo asred).1.Night is un-manifest. It is also said.3. thus. Sri Sayana explains that the expressions Surya and Savitr imply the power to protect. comes Savitr the awakening. He provides the inspiration and the impetus to life. regards Savitr as the inspiration. the grace and the inspiration to seek Satya. energy. comes after night (tamas) and before light (jyothi): (tamasya kirna rashmir bhavathi). and perceived in meditation (dyatatvat).1.82. Savitr.awakes the asleep and ennobles the vilest things”. Savitr is the bridge between night and light. And. The Deva illumines the world and makes all life possible.2. He also says Savita is that which enlivens and inspires all beings (Savita sarvasya prerako devah). Savitr. inspire and flash forth. therefore. pervades spreads and holds together different things. -22- . once the senses are controlled and the mind is stabilized. the night comes at his command sending all beings to rest. It is Savitr alone (ekah) that has the power to propel. He resides in the heart –lotus of the devotees (hrudayaravinde). the Truth. [*Sri Aurobindo interprets night as ignorance. Sri Sayana-charya also describes Savitr as the deity who presides during the time between dawn and the emergence of Sun*.] 28. 27. 28. like Surya. here. “His coming is the advent of God's hour. is the radiance that illumines and enlivens all existence. Svetasvatara Upanishad (2. intellect and consciousness. and light is manifest.4. Savitr just as Surya represents light.3) in a sense of the ‘early (proto)’ Surya. is visualized as the power to dispel darkness and enliven all existence (Brhad –devata: 2. He expands: “the all-knowing Aditya (Surya). Following her. He is adored by all the gods (sthuyate sarva-devathaihi). Ushas the dawn of consciousness arises. And. the protector of all beings (gopah) who moves in the mid-region permeating all the three worlds with his rays derives his inspiration (tasya prasave) from Savitr”.4. personified by the Surya. 29. 28. here. the illumining power of Surya. who shines in the sky with dazzling brilliance (divyati prakashata iti). Savitr is also called Bhaga (Savita Bhagaha: RV 5.7) describes Savitr as a Deva. he is to be meditated upon (upasate). inspiration.quite visible. Savitr in this sense is both un-manifest (A-vyakta) and manifest (Vyatka). a luminous god. Savitr. 28. Savitr.61-62). to inspires and flash forth (pra-sauti). Sri Sayana.

It is said. yet. This is Savitr in its true nature - un-conditioned by aught and beyond relative existence. when Pranava is omitted it is only three-footed (Chatuspaada Gayatri pranavena saha.2) describes with awe and wonder the majesty of Purusha.it is named A-paada. Savitr is truly one’s own self. vivifying the body. He fills and enlivens the entire universe. 30. the turiya paada is the un-conditioned and the most subtle aspect of the mantra. our resolves and our aspirations. It is said. 30. the sense –functions and the mind. all that exists as the world we know (sarva bhutani) is only one-fourth of the Purusha. he also dwells hidden in heart-cave of each being as its essence (guru guha).2. However. It is most worthy of worship (varenyam) and contemplation (dhyayema). the fourth paada (turiya paada) is hidden or un-manifest.It is said. beyond intellect.1. Savitr or Purusha is cosmic in nature. And hence.29.2. pranavam vina tripaada).3.1. The Gayatri mantra is said to be four-footed (chatuspaada) when Pranava (Om) accompanies it.90. The Purusha Sukta of Rig-Veda (10. It says. Savitr and Purusha 30. Savitr is Purusha.Savitr resides in -23- . and three – fourths of him are in the upper realms beyond our perception (tri paadasyam amrutam divi). consciousness and strength. It represents the Purusha abiding in the solar orb (Surya mandala-antargata-purusha). 31. providing wealth for the total welfare. He is the antaryamin. the very life of life. He lightens up all our thoughts.

the heart-lotus (hrudaya-aravinda) of the devotee.NS Anantharangachar Rg Vedic Suktas –Gayatri and others By Swami Amritananda All Pictures are from internet Sri Gayatri . ruling over them (adipathya bhavena).Gayatri mantra By Prof.SK. that which is seen.2. like the spokes of the wheel in its hub. the supreme consciousness. and there he becomes visible. The essentials of our existence are all settled in Savitr. This Savitr or Purusha is verily the Brahman (jagat prerakasys Brahma. References and Sources Rgveda Darshana –vol 3. Hence Savitr is called ‘darsata’.rupasya Savituh) . beyond the three gunas (paro rajasa) and illuminating the three worlds (tapati). 31. Let’s talk about the components of the Mantra and its import in the next part.Part Two – The mantra and its import -24- .Ramachandra Rao Vaidika Sahitya Charitre By Dr.

arranged in three lines (tripaada). akshara or matra (Gayatri chaturvimsatyakshara).It is repeated in several other texts. As mentioned earlier.The mantra 32. of the mantra is Gayatri. It originally occurs as the tenth rik in the sixty-second Sukta of the third mandala of Rig-Veda Samhita (RV: 3.10). In accordance with the characteristic requirement of the Gayatri – chhandas. The metrical form. each paada having eight letters (ashtaksharatmaka-paada). chhandas. the mantra is composed of twenty-four letters.1. Gayatri is a mantra dedicated to Savitr. -25- .62.

of course. (tat*) that.62.varenyam – bhargah – devasya – dhimahi – dhiyah – yah – na – prachodayath. is usually thus: (yah) who. (savituh) Savitr.] The literal meaning of the mantra would be: “We contemplate on the most adorable brilliance of Savitr who inspires our intellect”. The mantra. Extended form of Gayatri 33. (devasya) radiant.3. countless mystical interpretations of the mantra. (varenyam) most adorable.32. (bhargah) effulgence. The anvaya. Its extended form begins with the line comprising the Pranava (Om) and three Vyahrti-s (bhu. 32.2. (dhiyah) intellect. The pada – patha (sequential rendering) of the mantra reads: tat- savituh. (nah) our. the order of the words in the mantra to elicit its meaning.10) is known as Visvamitra-Gayatri. bhuvah and suvah). revealed to Rishi Visvamitra and appearing in the Rig-Veda Samhita (RV: 3. There are. The extended form is preferred during the performance of Havana-s -26- .1. as above. (dhimahi) we meditate upon. (prachodayath) inspires. The extended meaning of the term is Brahman (as in tat tvam asi). [* The suggestive term tat may refer either to Savitr or to his bhargah (excellence). Both the forms of Gayatri are recited and contemplated upon during the Sandhya prayers.

has four lines. The extended form of Gayatri. -27- . shining as the very core or as the essence of the solar orb (mandala-antargata-purusha). It represents Savitr as the Purusha. occurs following the traditional three lines of Gayatri mantra of twenty-four syllables. who is the inner-being (antaryamin). and can be comprehended only through intuition. The Upanishad adores the fourth line as ‘Namaste turiyaaya darshataya padaaya’. which is mystical in its import. This statement is based on the faith that the syllable Om encompasses all the Vyahrti-s. 34. the fourth line. The fourth line. when Pranava is omitted it is only three-footed (Chatuspaada Gayatri pranavenavena saha. rather. it is said. pranavam vina tripaada).7).2. is beyond intellect.2. thus. or. There is another stream of discussion on the fourth line (Turiya paada) of Gayatri in Brihadaranya Upanishad (5.1. the heart of all beings (sarva-jivatma). The text says that while the first three lines can be grasped by reason. This fourth paada is said to be hidden (darshatasya) or un-manifest (apad). However. the Vyahrti-s are extensions of Pranava Om.33. It is said. and. Gayatri mantra is four-footed (chatuspaada) when Pranava (Om) accompanies it.14. Turiya paada 34.

in terms of triads’. The Gayatri of three paadas rests (prathisitha) on the fourth paada (turiya paada). Its Rishi is Vimala. 35. your first line (eka padi) represents three realms (tri lokya). They all rest on Turiya paada which indeed is Satya (Absolute Truth). and the vital currents(prana. the Truth. which is established in Satya. for it is the essence (satva) of all beings and material objects – with form (murta) and without form (a-murta).3. numerous other interpretations depending on the inclination of each School. the mantra appears to refer to that un-shadowed effulgence (consciousness) beyond the three gunas (paro rajasa) that illumines (tapati) all existence. explains the preceding three paadas (paada traya) of the Gayatri mantra. its Devata is Paramatma. The Turiya paada. of course. There are. Moksha viniyogaha // Literally. Asya sree darshatasya Gayatri-turiya paada-maha – mantrasya. your second line (dvitiyena paadena) the three streams of knowledge (tri-vidya-rupena).rajase. beyond conditioned . and. tri-vidya to three Vedas(Rig. considered a maha-mantra. This (Satya) is the real Savitr. and.asau . It says: Hey Gayatri. bhuvah and suvah).praapta – iti’) is. Yajus and Sama). This Turiya paada which reads ‘paro rajas ya tapati’ (the pada-pata of which is: ‘Parah. -28- . the commentators explain that tri lokya refers to three realms (bhu. apana and vyana). its objective (viniyoga) is liberation (moksha).34. by itself.1. it is said. its chhandas is Turiya. Here.adhah – maa . Vimala Rishihi.existence. Turiya chhandaha/Paramatma Devata. your third line (trutiyena paadena) the vital currents (prana).

dreaming and deep sleep).15). composed of thirty-two syllables (TtU : 1. 36.4. the Gayatri of four lines..1. and. as it represents the Purusha. And.3. The Panchadasi mantra is implicit or hidden (just as Turiya paada). the tantric interpretations to Chatush-paada Gayatri. it represents pure consciousness. ya (1). 36. which is not inert (paro rajase). but .. rajas (2). The text interprets the Turiya Paada by relating it to the principle of Shiva: the illumination (prakasha). Further.8 ). Tripura – tapini – Upanishad which deals with the basic concepts and symbolisms of Sri Vidya. it is said. the pure consciousness (Shiva) latent as Paramatman (akshara) in the space of one’s heart (akshare parame -29- .2. 36. among other things.tapa -iti (3)] of the subtle and mystical fourth-line (Turiya-paada) of Gayatri in association with Pranava (Om) as the ninth letter (navakshara vai) forms the first half of the Yajna (purvardha vai yajnasya Gayatri – Satapatha Brahmana: 3.35. which is equivalent to Pranava Om. Turiya paada is not for chanting. Turiya.it is for contemplation in silence. represents the highest state beyond the three gunas (paro rajas) and beyond the three known states of consciousness (waking.3. the eight letters [paro (2). Srim is Mother-Goddess’s own form. The mantra starting with words: ‘paro rajase.. the Turiya paada the fourth-line(chaturbhi paadaih)by itself(ekame)is worthy of meditation in silence (upasate).2. pra. at ‘the end of silence’. It is also said. 35. Thus.’ is accorded great significance in the Sri Vidya tradition. provides.2 to 1. It is identified with the beeja Hrim. The text compares the Turiya paada the fourth line (Paro rajase Savadom) with the fifteen-lettered Panchadasi mantra of Sri Vidya . it becomes explicit or manifest when the sixteenth (sodasha) letter Srim is added to it.1.

Turiya Gayatri is also Atma Vidya. and. it is said. each one has to understand and experience it in her/his own way. There is another interpretation.2. -30- . And. 37. The aspirants are advised to create her/his own rendering of the essence of the mantra.hrim-hamsaha -soham-svaha).1. 38. Gayatri is a Universal mantra. Maha Vidya (584).vidya’ of the Sri Vidya tradition (om. Sri Vidya (585). the Devi manifests in the form of Turiya Gayatri and also as the eight-lettered ‘atma-ashtakshara. Of the mantras of such genre the one that comes to mind quickly is the celebrated Gayatri created by Sri Aurobindo. Sri Aurobindo gave his own Gayatri mantra of twenty-four syllables: Tat savitur varam rūpamjyotiḥ parasya dhīmahi yannaḥ satyena dīpayet. It is drawn out (vimarsa) when it is associated with the shakthi of Mother –goddess Gayatri. as each perceives it.vyoman). Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri 38.1.In this context. The commentaries on Sri Lalitha Sahasranama mention that the nama-s 583 – 585 refer to three types of Vidya-s: Atma Vidya (583). It is said.

3. Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri is addressed to Savitri.4. Sri Aurobindo's Gayatri Mantra meditates upon the auspicious form of the Sun. ̣ the power of inspired speech which brings the illumination of the supreme Truth’. on the Light of the Supreme which shall illumine us with the Truth.Savitri is the symbol of dawn. the Truth that comes from the Sun. It is said. The scholar Shri R. daughter of the Sun ‘as Satya (the Truth). Deshpande explains that Sri Aurobindo's Gayatri Mantra is slightly different from the traditional Gayatri Mantra -31- . the pure consciousnesṣ.Y.Let us meditate on the most auspicious form of Savitri . 38. the Light that illumines us with the Truth. 38.

Gayatri mantra as given by Rishi Visvamitra is extended by fusing it with a line opening with the Pranava Om followed by the three Vyahrtis (bhu.The coming down of that Grace is the birth of Savitri.given to us by Rishi Visvamitra. it is important by itself. amongst us. It invokes Gayatri in her most auspicious form to come and reside in us. the emphasis is on the auspicious form ̣ varam rupam. We shall briefly talk about Pranava and the Vyahrtis. The concept of Vyahrtis. bhuvah and suvah). within us. Gayatri which is Savitri adores Pranava as Brahman (Brahma Swaroopam) encompassing all existence. Pranava Om -32- . was derived from Taittriya Upanishad. It is verily the Bija from which Gayatri emanates. the second invokes her as a form in us.1. Both the forms of Gayatri are recited and contemplated upon during the Sandhya prayers. This is the difference between the two: ̣ the first invokes a spiritual perception. The Pranava Om always recited at the beginning and the end of the mantra is not just a sound or symbol. The extended form is preferred during the performance of havana-s. it is said. In Sri Aurobindo’̣s mantra. and. which seeks illumination of our intuition and of our intellect. Om and the Vyahrti-s 39.

supremely blissful and non-dual.5.2.1. Teijasa in dream state is U. the first part of AUM.7) explains Om as the unity of three matras: ‘a’. It -33- . the third part of AUM. and. the second part of AUM. It is the auspicious sound of initiation (diksha). fondly. It is the single syllable that symbolizes and embodies Brahman. Sri Gauda-Paada explains.1). Om is the most comprehensive universal sound-symbol (udgita). It is hailed as the Moola-mantra (the root of all mantras).8.Turiya - one beyond the phenomenal existence. Aitareya Brahmana (2. It is the Pranava that which pervades all existence. concluding the sounds of the earlier two parts.40. ‘u’ and ‘ma’ (akaara-ukaara-makaara). And. every prayer and every worship-action is preceded by utterance of Om. The Syllable AUM in its entirety stands for the fourth state .enjoys unrivalled pre-eminence in the Indian traditions. the student says to himself.Every recitation. The study of the Vedas commences with the sound of Om. 40. Akshara (The Letter) or Ekakshara (the single syllable). Sri Gauda-Paada in his celebrated Karika on Mandukya Upanishad expands on that and avers ‘AUM represents manifest and un-manifest aspects of Brahman’. Pranava – Om . ‘with this I shall attain Brahman’ (Taittiriya Upanishad -1. Prajna in deep sleep is M. the Absolute Reality. Vaisvanara in waking state is A. and it is our very life breath.

even if Vyahrti-s are omitted.3.1-8) confirms that scriptural recitation always begins with the chanting of the syllable Om. The Gayatri-japa. Taittiriya Aranyaka (10. As regards the Pranava at the commencement of Gayatri. therefore.4. Om and Gayatri 41. Meditate on AUM as the Self.AUM is thus verily the Self itself. Srimad Anandatheertha (Sri Madhwacharya) explains in his Rg-bhasya that the import of the Pranava is expanded in the Vyahrti-s and the meaning of the Vyahrti-s is elaborated in the Gayatri. The traditional view is that the Pranava. all manifestations and expressions are rooted in Om (tad yatha). the two are intimately related.10). and the sum and substance of all the Vedas. advice the aspirants to meditate on Omkara. It is said. and its Devata is Paramatma. For the purpose of meditation. AUM represents Ultimate Reality. Vyahrti-s and the Gayatri form an integral unit. followed by the three Vyahrtis and the Gayatri verse (as in RV 3. which is the most important sequence -34- .1. Pranava is indeed the Bija of Gayatri-mantra.11. Omkara is itself regarded a mantra. All the texts. its chhandas is Gayatri.is the source of all existence. 41. for some reason. Its Rishi is Prajapathi. 41. the Pranava should always precede the Gayatri.2.3.62. Taittiriya Aranyaka (2. And.33) also declares ‘Omkara is indeed the very representation of Brahman’ (Om ityekaksharam Brahma). 40. 40. The purpose of meditation (viniyoga) is liberation (vimukthi – phala – siddhidam).

3) says:Gayatri with Vyahrtis. 42. -35- . Vyahrtis (vyahrityabhi) and Savitri (Savitra che iti). there emerged (sampra savant) these syllables (etani aksharani): bhu. which are termed as Vyahrti-s. There are several myths associated with the origin of the Vyahrtis. The Pranava Om in the first line of Gayatri is followed by three utterances Bhu. 3. They are also taken as syllables of mystical significance. Bhuvah and Suvah.6. Worship (upaasita) Brahman using Om (Omithyaksharena). bhuvah and suvah. Out of his contemplation arose three Vedas (trayi vidya). That (tat) Brahman is one with Om.of the Sandhya. For instance: : .Vyahriti is also understood as that which sheds light on our knowledge of the universe (Visheshenh Aahritih sarva viraat praahlaanam prakash-karanah vyahriti iti).4. Maitrayani Upanishad (3. The term Vyahrti (or Vyahara) literally means well articulated speech or a considered statement.10. and Pranava with Vyahrtis are but two names of Brahman that is light. From out of the Vedas that he meditated upon.Chandogya Upanishad (2.6.23. Vyahrti-s 42. 41. bhuvah and suvah) [Pranava vyahrtiyutam gayatrim vai japet tatah]. should invariably include both the Pranava (Om) and the Vyahrti-s (bhu. There are also variations in the explanations provided in some Upanishads and their associated texts.2-3) states that Prajapathi who is the embodiment of Truth meditated upon all existence (lokan abhyatapat).2.1.

and the earth come into existence (sa bhur iti vyaharat. Prajapathi exclaimed ‘Verily all this is Om! Verily all this is Om! ‘ (Omkara eva idam sarvam. he derived from their essence (rasam pravrhat): Rg (Rig-Veda) from Agni (agneh rcah). just as the network of veins (sankuna) is spread over the entire leaf (sarvani parnanai). and Sama from Aditya (samani adityat).Taittiriya Brahmana (2. air from the intermediate-space (vayum antariksat). the syllable Om (Omkara samprasravat) emerged from these (vyahtri-s).And. Bhuvah from Yajur Veda (bhuvah iti yajurbhyah) and Suvah from Sama Veda (suvah iti samabhyah). Prajapathi further contemplated on the three Vedas (tryim vidyam) and extracted their essence: Bhu from Rig-Veda (bhu iti rgbhyah). Yajus from Vayu (vayoh yajumsi).As Prajapathi contemplated further (tani abhyatapat). and extracted their essence (rasam pravrhat): fire from the earth (agnim prithivyah). He then realized that Om permeates every form of speech (omkara sarva vak samtrnna). As he contemplated on the three deities. sa divam asrjata). -36- . Omkara eva idam sarvam)’. and this brought forth the mid-region (a bhuvah iti vyaharat. and Aditya (sun) from the space beyond (adityam divah). : .He then uttered Bhuvah. and. the upper realm got formed (sa suvah iti vyaharat.Chandogya Upanishad at another place (4. sa bhumim asrjata). Thus the three Vyahrtis (utterances) correspond to these realms (eta vai vyahrtya ime lokah). antariksham asrjata). : . finally Prajapathi exclaimed Suvah.42) offers a different explanation.2. It mentions that Prajapathi at the end of his meditation uttered Bhu.1-3) states: Prajapathi contemplated upon all worlds (lokan abhyatapat).27.

Then. it says: at the beginning. Bhuvah symbolizes the mid-region (antariksha) which provides space for existence and maintenance of the first Vyahrti Bhu.: . 43. Thus. in these texts.2. The later text Parasara Smrti mentions that the Vyahrti Bhuvah signifies that which produces. maintains all things till their destruction. the existence was inarticulate. after deep contemplation Prajapathi uttered: Bhu. Bhuh is earth. For instance: :.1. and Suvah is his head (suvaritya shiroh).The first Vyahrti Bhu is explained as that from which objects spring up or take birth or take shape (bhavatah kvipi bhur iti rupam) or that in which all beings reside (bhavanti asyam bhutani).2). That threefold utterance formed the gross body of Purusha: Bhu his feet (bhu paadah). the earth (bhavaty asmin jagat). It is said. It also illumines the world of earth (prakashayati visvam). And. It is explained that in these references Bhu etc do not mean material earth etc.(eta vai vyahrtaya ime lokah: TB . they symbolically suggest the principles associated with earth.Similarly. The Taittiriya Upanishad explains the three terms as: bhuh – ayamlokah (this world here in front of us). Bhuvah and Suvah.Maitrayani Upanishad (6. initially. the Cosmic Being.6) expands on that and relates the Vyahrti-s to Purusha. And. Bhuvah is mid-region. and suvah –asau lokah (the world beyond).1. Bhuvah is his navel (nabhir bhuvah). and that which again produces them. But. : . atmosphere and space beyond. realms or worlds (lokah) .4. -37- . 44. and. Aditya (sun) became his eyes (Aditya chakshu). Vyahrti-s are presented as utterances of mystical significance that stand for regions.2. Suvah is the upper region. bhuvah – antariksham (the mid region). the second Vyahrti Bhuvah signifies that principle which maintains all objects and beings (bhavayati sthapayati visvam iti).

the third Vyahrti Suvah. three Vedas. Following that. 45. in the appended table. No. in the later texts and commentaries. trinity of Brahma. three realms (loka). Factor Vyahrti Bhu Bhuvah Suvah 1 Loka (realm) Prithvi Antariksha Dyur-loka 2 Veda Rig-Veda Yajur-veda Sama-veda -38- . Vedic gods . apana and vyana). But.three. three existential factors as set out in the Samkhya (Pradhana. Vishnu and Shiva. Purusha and Kaala). The more significant ones are those that attempt to relate each of the three Vyahrti-s to: the Matra-s of the Pranava (A-U-M). 45. the Vyahrti-s came to be associated with a wide-range (almost endless sets) of meanings and interpretations. the three aspects of Brahman (Sat. warmth.And.: . and it is pure knowledge. Ananada. kriya and jnana). and. It also symbolizes the ideal state of bliss.1. three modes of powers or expressions (iccha. the upper realm is that which provides light.Agni. the greatest blessing. three chakras of Yoga (muladhara.Vayau and Aditya. three vital energies (prana. at the end of this paragraph listed just a few of those. I have. Suvah signifies that which is truly adorable or sought after in all earnestness (sushtu varaniyatvat suvah). the Vyahrti-s were interpreted as or identified with almost everything that could be tied into a set – of . vishuddha and sahasrara). Chit and Ananada) etc. coolness and life to the two other lower regions: Bhuvah (mid-region) and Bhu (earth).2.

unique bliss (ananda). -39- . He also explains that the import of the Pranava is expanded in the Vyahrti-s.1. such as: completeness (purna). and. Sri Madhwacharya in his Rg-bhashya states that the Vyahrti-s Bhu. The three Vyahrti-s gain a special significance in their association with the Gayatri mantra. 3 Matras of Pranava a-kaara u-kaara m-kaara 4 Devatha of the realm Agni Vayu Aditya 5 Sources of Energy Prana Agni Surya 6 Aspect of Brahman Sat Chit Ananda 7 Chakras Muladhara Vishuddha Sahasrara 8 Vital energies Prana Apana Vyana 9 Trinity Brahma Vishnu Rudra 10 Powers Iccha-shakti Kriya-shakti Jnana-shakti 11 Elemental factor Pradhana Purusha Kaala 12 Levels of identity Buddhi Manas Ahamkara 13 Guna Satva Rajas Tamas 14 Colour Pita Shukla Krishna 15 Time (Kaala) Past Present Future 16 Worship-fires at home Garhapathya Dakshina Ahavaniya Vyahrti-s and Gayatri 46. the Vyahrti-s and the Gayatri mantra are of identical nature. The traditional view is that the Pranava (Om). Bhuvah and Suvah denote virtues associated with Brahman. absolute supremacy (niradhika-sreshthah). and the meaning of the Vyahrti-s is made clear in Gayatri.

or as three states or levels of consciousness experienced during meditation on Gayatri.This is the adorable loka (maha pujayam). Taittiriya Upanishad further states: These are the four Vyahrti-s. It is said. Because. 46.1. the four states in the four planes of existence. through meditation.46. Through that.2. Everyone loves such a knower.Mahah 47. 47. They are also the Vyahrti-s mentioned in the older texts. one who nourishes life everywhere. the antaryamin who ennobles (mahat) all the worlds. Bhuvah and Suvah are the three Vyahrti-s’ (bhur bhuva suvariti va etaastritayo vyahrutaya). that the son of Rishi Mahachamas had the knowledge of the fourth Vyahrti called Mahah (chaturthim mahachamasya: pravadayate). says. Mahah is Aditya (mahah iti adityah). and one who is adored by those who aspire for liberation. the loka of Aditya. Fourth Vyahrti . the -40- . And.3. One who understands. knows Brahman (ta yo veda sa brahma). Bhuvah and Suvah are together known as Maha-Vyahrti-s. one attains svarajya the state of independence beyond bondage (apnoti svarajyam). which leads to release (moksha). in addition. The other significant association of the Vyahrti-s with the Gayatri is their representation as the three subtle planes of existence (loka). they are the fundamental realms (loka). universally accepted and integrated into Gayatri mantra. The Vyahrti-s: Bhu. or regions of experience.2. everything in this existence is fourfold. And. Taittiriya Upanishad (Shiksha valli: 1-7) mentions ‘Bhu. the Vyahrti-s bring out the aspects of Brahman that could be meditated upon. And. 47. The contemplation on Vyahrti-s is also the contemplation on the aspects of Pranava.3. higher than Suvah.

tapoloka and satyaloka the highest loka.1. Bhu. in the ascending order. tala-tala. are placed above Suvah.gods bring him offerings (sarvesmai deva balim avahanti). bringing the total to seven Vyahrti-s. The seven upper (urdhva) loka-s positioned above the earth. Symbolisms -41- . 47. are: bhuvarloka. Mahah is Brahman that pervades everything (maha iti tad brahma)’. The concept of loka-s or realms arranged in ascending (urdhva) and descending (adho) order with reference to the position of the earth (Bhu) at the middle (madhya) emanates from the imagery of the structured world (Bhuvana) as envisioned by the ancients. are also understood as the levels of consciousness. In addition. Bhuvah and Suvah are the fundamental (Maha) Vyahrti-s. as Brahma who presides over Yajna (brahmanavava sarve veda maheeyante). and as Anna that nourishes all the vital forces (annena vava sarve prana maheeyante). tapah and satyam. and Mahah is the fourth one. The passage goes on to describe Mahah: as Chandra who supports all plant-life and celestial bodies (sarvani jyotishee maheeyante). tapah and satyam. The six lower (adho) loka-s placed below the earth (Bhuloka) are: atala. in ascending order. vitala. three other Vyahrti-s are mentioned: janah. These Vyahrti-s. Janah. sutala. Other Vyahrti-s 48. rasatala and patala the lowest loka.2. maharloka. svarloka. referred to as loka-s. janaloka. Prachinayogya (descendent of sage Prachinayoga) was initiated into this meditation.4. As said earlier. 48. It declares ‘Mahah is Atman.

4. in a similar manner. which the Vyahrti-s represent.49. janah represents the realm from which akasha and other elements originate (jana janane. Though each of the seven Vyahrti-s represents a distinct loka or a level of consciousness their utterance is always preceded by the Pranava -42- . associated with the chakras. 49.1. As regards the upper realms (urdhva loka). 49. : (i) emotions . These levels are . and satyam is eternal. It is also said. in that order. desire for approval or love. 49. (ii) intellect . And . and. tapah is the realm from which all thoughts arise (tapah alochane) representing knowledge and enlightenment. the Bhu (earth) is deemed to represent the physical (bodily) consciousness. logic and reasoning . (v) intuition. immutable in space or time. of existence. Satyam is the highest bliss and the liberating knowledge. while the below (adho) loka-s represent the lower levels of consciousness. The seven Vyahrti-s and Om 50.3. (vi) unbound . listening and observing in stillness . there is a faith that the desirable objects that aid ones progress arise from these seven lokas or planes.The six upper realms are said to symbolically represent . (iv) psychic realm. (iii) subtle energies of spirit .1. the basic needs. direct experience of reality of Self. Symbolically. karturyasun). The presiding deities of the planes of existence are called upon to guide us to the Truth that liberates.2. non-dual consciousness. the energy centres or seats of consciousness in human body.

the astral realm.The Bindu (.comprehensive nature of Om : “Om. and the third matra of the Pranava (ma-kaara) is the third of the Vyahrti-s (Suvah). the light. and the nada the sound of the Pranava is the fifth Vyahrti Janah. : . The mantra .As regards the Pranava mantra that precedes each Vyahrti. Indra and Visvedevah. the symbol of supreme reality. Ushnik. Brahma is the Rishi. of these Vyahrti-s are Gayatri. Atri. the chhandas. -43- . The Shakthi or the energy of the Pranava is the sixth Vyahrti Tapah. Aditya). the objective (mokshado viniyogah). Vagisha (Brihaspathi). And. the physical world. 50. All the Vyahrti-s emanate from Pranava Om.And. Varuna. The contemplation on Vyahrti-s is intended to secure (viniyoga) moksha.2. Vashista.The second matra of the Pranava (u-kaara) is the second Vyahrti (Bhuh). liberation. Kashyapa and Angirasa. the metrical forms.The Devata-s of the mantras are: Agni Vayu. and Paramatma is its Devata. the first matra of the Pranava (a-kaara) is the first of the Vyahrti-s (Bhu). Brighu. all are indeed Om”. the Absolute. the mental realm. Brhati. in order.) which is the ardha (half)-matra is the Vyahrti Mahah. Prapancha –Sara a tantric text graphically describes the intimate relation between the Pranava and the Vyahrti-s. and Jagati. the very essence in which we exist. : . : . Trishtup.Om. It explains. Gautama. : . while the sublime peace (shanthi) of Pranava is the seventh Vyahrti Satyam. Arka (Surya. Kutsa.The Rishis of the seven Vyahrti-s are.The tradition regards each Vyahrti as a mantra in its own right.Om âpo jyotih rasomritam brahma bhûr bhuvas suvar Om – pays tribute to the all. liberation is its viniyoga. 50. Gayatri is its chhandas. Anushtup. Pankti.3. moksha. the water.

51. Janah the heart. Elongated Gayatri 51. -44- .2.the eternal. The longer version of Gayatri is usually invoked during Pranayama preceding meditation on Gayatri. and Satya the midpoint of his forehead. where Bhu is his feet. The Vyahrti-s bring out the aspects of Brahman that are suitable for contemplation : Om is purna . Mahah is mahaniya . Bhuh is shristi-karta the creator.50. the unbound. giving rise to the longer version of Gayatri.the perfect. Suvah the loins. The mantra concludes with an invocation to the Goddess of light praying to illuminate our path as we progress towards higher consciousness.1.4. Bhuvah the knees. Another text describes the Vyahrti-s as the limbs of the Cosmic-person (Virat-purusha) . 51. Tapah the throat. the light of knowledge. Tapah is jnana-prakasha . Janah is aja beginning-less. Bhu is nitya . and Satyam is niyama the true order that prevails in the Universe.3. the adorable. Suvah is svatantra . The seven Vyahrti-s each accompanied by Om are followed by the three lines of the traditional 24-syllable Gayatri mantra. Mahah the navel.

2. the supreme and absolute spirit settled in the hearts of all beings. 52. The discussion on the meaning. But. hence its original name is Savitri. significance and symbolisms of the mantra is one thing. 6. here. however. As Sri Shankara says.2). the diligent practice of its contemplation is quite another. 52.12. Each has to delve deep into her/himself. Up. The mantra is said to belong to the Devata Savitr. The Savitr. understand it in her/his own way. no universally accepted translation of it in English. there is. my dear’ (Ch.Mantra’s import 52. the Brahman. the efficacy of the Gayatri is in its meditation –practice (abhyasa) and in the realization of its true nature (tasmad Gayatri evam prakaropasya). is verily the Purusha. The mantra acquires different shades of meaning in accordance with the interpretations assigned to each of its terms. Though the Gayatri mantra is generally taken to mean: ‘may that Savitr inspire our intellect’.3. the mantra is not directly addressed to Devata Savitr. have faith.1. and realize her/his own Gayatri through reasoning grasped in faith. As sage Uddalaka counsels ‘śraddhatsva somyeti. -45- .

Iconography -46- .

Gayatri as nirguna is her mantra (vachya shakthi). word and deed. the worshipper visualizes -47- . In the purity of her/his thought. as saguna she is manifest as Gayatri Devata. She embodies three gunas (sattva. as settled in solar orb. Through these verses. preparatory to reciting (japa) her mantra and meditating upon her form are the principal sources for Gayatri-iconography. 53. rajas and tamas). Gayatri as Devata personifies the absolute reality (Brahman) conditioned by names and forms.53.2.1. recited with great reverence and devotion. the visible form of divinity. The Dhyana –slokas and the mantras invoking Gayatri Devata (Gayatri Avahaana). the worshipper awakens and enlivens the potent Goddess residing in her/ his heart-cave. the basic constituents of all existence. It is said. and.

youthful.25]. with the aid of verses recited with great earnestness. of the colour of pure gold. old and long past her youth. garlanded with crystal beads. But.1. seated on Garuda. with three eyes. as Savitri in the mid-day is Rudra svarupini. Mahanirvana Tantra (56-60) provides a slightly different version of her manifestations. As Gayatri in the morning she is Bramha svarupini. propitious. as a Maiden of ruddy hue. Savitri in the midday (madyanh savana) and Sarasvathi in the evening (saayam savana) . She is the sum or the aggregate (samasti svarupini) of all that is divine (Sarvadevata Svarupini. In the evening meditate upon Devi Gayatri as Maheshwari of a white colour. Sarvamantra Svarupini). it is also said. 54. Gayatri is said to manifest her shakthi in three forms. with full and rising breasts. -48- . 54.2. And. At midday meditate upon Devi Gayatri in Her Vaishnavi form.Gayatri Devata in her various auspicious forms. with two hands. garlanded with wild-flowers (57-58). holding a gourd full of holy water. and a skull (59-60) [ Mahanirvana Tantra -Translated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe)-1913].[Aitareya Brahmana-13. clad in the skin of a black antelope. seated on a Swan (56). a trident. with four hands holding the conch-shell. beneficent. discus. clad in white raiment. Gayatri herself represents all three savana-s (Gayatri vai sarvani savanani).3. and as Sarasvathi in the evening is Vishnu svarupini. and lotus. 54. a lance. mace. with a pure smile. holding in her lotus-like hands a noose. and seated on a Bull. it asks the Sadhaka : “In the morning meditate upon Her ( Devi Gayatri) in Her Brahmi form. as: Gayatri in the morning (pratah-savana). situated in the Solar disc. Her individual forms are named ‘vyasti’.while her integrated form is ‘samasti’.

Gayatri who is of the form of Brahma is settled in the solar orb. ravimandala-madhyagam rg-vedam uccarayantim raktavarnam kumarikam akshamalakaram brahmadevatyam hamsavahanam' In the morning. The following are some of the verses recited more commonly. adoring Gayatri Devata.55. I meditate upon Gayatri. -49- . red in complexion. wearing garland of rosaries.1. and riding a swan. She is reciting Rig-Veda.young and glowing. 'pratar dhyayami gayatrim.

'madhyandine tu savitrim ravimandalamadhyagam yajur-vedam vyaharantim svetam sulakaram sivam yuvatim rudradevatyam dhyayami vrshavahanam' At noon she is Savitri. -50- . I meditate upon Savitri of the form of God Rudra. She is auspicious looking young person. well adorned in white garments. She is engaged in Yajur Veda. riding a bull and settled in the solar orb.

She is auspicious looking mature person. holding Chakra and riding Garuda.'sayam sarasvatim syamam ravimandalamdhyagam sama-vedam vyaharantim cakrayudhadharam subham dhyayami vishnudevatyam vrddham garudavahanam' In the evening. I meditate upon Sarasvathi settled in the solar orb. she is Sarasvathi. and is in the form of Vishnu dark in complexion. She is reciting Sama Veda. Samasti -51- .

coral. Yuktam indu-nibadha-ratna-makutam tatvarthavarnatmikam Gayatrim varadabhayankusa-kasam subhram-kapalam gadam Sankham chakram atha aravindayugalam hastair vahantim bhaje I meditate upon the Goddess Gayatri of five faces tinged with shades of pearl. and white. sapphire. the whip. She holds in her six hands: the goad. the mace. the conch and the discus. gold. As regards the symbolisms associated with the iconographic features of Gayatri Devata . Mukta-vidruma . as also two lotuses in two other hands. With the other hands she gestures protection (abhaya mudra) and granting blessings (varada mudra). her five heads are variously interpreted as : five vital -52- . She is seated on a lotus.She is the very embodiment of mystic utterances of great philosophical import. Each of her heads is adorned with three eyes and crescent moon upon her diamond studded crown. the white skull.hema-nila-dhavala-chayair mukhair-tryakshnaih. She is endowed with ten arms.

air. (v) dhimahi. vyana. -53- . water. pancha tattva (earth. Bhuvah . the five parts of Gayatri mantra – (i) Om . pancha prana (prana. apana. five fundamental elements . and. fire and sky ).(iii) tat savitur varenyam. udana and samana ) .(ii) Bhu. Suvah.(iv) Bhargo devasya.energies.