Goddess Gayatri Devi is an incarnation of Saraswati Devi, consort of Lord Brahma, symbolising the ‘shakti’ or energy and ‘dev’ or quality of Knowledge, Purity and Virtue. Saraswati Devi is held to be the patron of the Arts, being a poet and musician, as well as skillful composer. In the form of Gayatri Devi, with the blessings of Lord Brahma, she is believed to have given the four Vedas to mankind. A person totally devoted to Goddess Gayatri may achieve great success in the path of self-advancement as She inspires mankind towards righteousness. Gayatri Devi is sometimes depicted as the second consort of Lord Brahma.
DEPICTION: Gayatri is depicted seated on a red lotus to signify wealth. Lotus also symbolizes Divinity. As Pancha Mukhi, She has five heads and ten eyes looking at eight directions of the earth and the three lokhas. This is all symbolic just as Ravana having 10 heads! Gayatri Devi’s five faces represent: (1) The pancha pranas meaning lives and pancha vayus meaning winds - prana, apana,vyana, udana, samana. (2) The Pancha Tattvas or five principles or elements – prithvi or earth, jala or water, vayu or air, teja or fire and aakasha or sky.
Gayatri holds the ayudhas or weapons attributed to Lord Vishu in her ten hands symbolizing all His incarnations. They are: shankha; chakra, kamala, varada, abhaya, kasha, ankusha, ujjwala utensil and rudrakshi mala. The goddess also symbolizes knowledge as Goddess of Education. Thus she carries a book in one hand and a cure in another.
A white swan accompanying her symbolizes links with Goddess Saraswathi. It is said that Goddess Gayatri resides in human hearts in the form of a swan. Gayatri appears in the heart as a swan upon fruitful meditation.
METER and SYLLABLES: Gayatra is also a Sanskrit word for song or hymn and Gayatri is the feminine version and as embodiment of all deities. Hindu spiritual poetry is not written according to whims and fancy. They are regulated by rhyme and meter. Gayatri Mantra has a Vedic meter of twenty syllables. This mantra is the most prominent regulated poetry. It is mentioned in the Srimad Bhagavatam. Great sins are said to be expiated by a pious recitation of Gayatri Mantra. Taittiriya Arayanyaka 2.11.1-8 contains stipulation that gayatri mantras are to bein with the chanting of the syllable OM followed by the three Vyahrtis and the Gayatri verse. Thus Om followed by the formula ‘bhur bhuvah svah’ is the Mahavyahti.
GAYATRI MANTRA: This mantra is a crystallized jewel, second only to the Pranava Om. It has come down for generations and first recorded in Rig Veda 3.62.10. Probably it may have been chanted for several generation before being recorded in the Vedas. All the three Vedas contain material rearranged from the Rig Veda. Hence the Gayatri mantra is found in all the four Vedas and is therefore Vedasaras, the essence of the Vedas and the Upanishads. The Four Mahavakyas are enshrined in this mantra. It is said that Gayatri Mantra was developed by Brahmarishi Vishvamitra. Despite its popularity, interpretation and widespread chanting, the Puranas do mention that only twenty four rishis have wholly understood the meaning of Gayatri Mantra. They were able to use the power of the mantra. Rishi Yajnavalkya stands last of the list.
It is also called the Savitri Mantra as the deva invoked for this mantra is Savitr, the Sun God. So it is also prayer to the Sun. It is a prayer to Him to free from human sins, physical dissipation and to bestow knowledge, health and longevity. The performance of Gayatri Mantra helps in self-purification and protects a person from the malefic effects of sins. Gayatri mantra serves as a protector for all those who utter the mantra sincerity. Gayatri, Savitri and Saraswati are three goddesses representing the presiding deities of the famous Gayatri mantra chanted thrice a day - at dawn, midday and at dusk facing the sun. The maximum benefit of chanting is said to be obtained by chanting it 108 times. However, one may also chant this for 3, 9, or 18 times. This Mantra should be chanted at medium speed and each mantra chant should be immediately followed by the next chant.
Gayatri has three phases and so it is called tripada. It is also called tripada because it is Vedmata, Devmata and Vishwamata. It is said that 24 Gods can be pleased by chanting this Mantra instead of chanting their individual mantras.
Three step or tripada:
1. Om Bhur Bhuva Svaha
2. Om Thath Savitur Varenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
3. Om Dhiyo Yo Naha Prachodhayat
Om The primeval sound
Bhur The physical world, this earth
Bhuva The mental world
Svaha The spiritual world
Thath That (the Paramatma)
Savitur The Sun, Creator
Varenyam The most adorable, highest
Bhargo Luster, Effulgence, tejas
Devasya Supreme Lord
Dhimahi We meditate upon
Dhiyo Intellect, understanding
Prachodhayat Enlightens, guides
Purport: - O God! You are Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Almighty. You are all Light and all Knowledge and Bliss.You are Destroyer of fear; you are Creator of this Universe. You are the remover of pain and sorrow and the bestower of happiness. You are the Greatest of all. May we receive your supreme sin-destroying light, May you guide our intellect in the right direction.
CHANTING: Guru cannot be least emphasised. Initiation is to be taken from a guru into Gayatri and practiced regularly. Learning from books would one thing and guru parampara is another. Sri Krishna emphasises this in the Gita. Om symbolizes the almighty God, Bhuh means earth, Bhuah represents the entire Universe covering all the semi-gods, demi-gods, their sub-divisions etc including the Sun. Svah represents the third dimension of celestial region called the ‘Swarga-Loka’ and the luminous lokas and parallel Universes which are beyond our present understanding. There are seven vyahritis or rythms in the Gayatri Mantra. The Meditation should be done on Kundlini, meditation on ‘Om Bhuh’ should be done on Muladhara Chakra ,at the base of spine and ending with ‘Om Tapaha’ at ajna chakra , eyebrow centre. God realisation comes with the sadhak channelling Kundalini energy in a systematic and proper way.
GITA: Gayatri mantra is the Guru Mantra to illuminate the intellect. It is meant for realization of God and is regarded as representing the Supreme Lord. It is meant for spiritually advanced people. Success in chanting it enables one to enter the transcendental position of the Lord. But, in order to chant the Gayatri mantra, it is necessary for one to first acquire the qualities of the perfectly balanced person in terms of the qualities of goodness according to the laws of material nature. The Gayatri mantra is considered to be the sonic incarnation of Brahman and is regarded as very important in Vedic civilization. In Gita 10.35, Lord Krishna states: ‘Among the hymns, I am the Brihat saama sung to Lord Indra, Of the poetry, I am the Gayatri verse sung daily by the initiated, Of all the nuwsas - months, I am the margasira, Among all the ritus - seasons, I am the flower bearing - spring.
By Yogi Ananda Saraswathi