The Meaning of Gayatri Mantra

Introduction to Gayatri Mantra

First of all, let me clarify, there are various interpretations or meanings of Gayatri Mantra and most of the correct interpretations, more or so present almost similar meaning of the mantra. Gayatri Mantra is an ancient Mantra which has been recited since the time immemorial in Hinduism. Gayatri Mantra is found in Rig-Veda said to have been written or discovered by Maharishi Viashwamitra. There are various types of Gayatri Mantras which are dedicated to different deities (we look at some of those at the end of this article).

The most popular form of Gayatri Mantra rather the mantra which is know as Gayatri mantra is: 

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः |
तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं
भर्गो देवस्यः धीमहि |
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ||

Om bhoor bhuvah svah
Tat-Savitur-Varenyam​
Bhargo Devasya Deemahi​
dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat

When uttered together and recited in a specific tune you get the right way of chanting the Gayatri Mantra

Why Gayatri Mantra, & how many times should it be chanted?

Chanting done  right can create vibrations/reverberations which are positive, and positive vibrations can further stimulate relaxation, healing or your desired affect (if you the right chant for your desire). Gayatri mantra is regarded as one the most powerful mantra, which gives you the direction of your progression (if you desire it) from what you are right now to what you always have a deep innate desire to be. Though there are various benefits of chanting Gayatri Mantra, here is a list of few of them

  • It is something which can give you intellectual clarity and peace of thought. 
  • Daily chanting of Gayatri Mantra has many significant benefits now the science is also catching up to it click here
  • Gayatri Mantra is called as illumination in itself, meaning it helps you gain knowledge and take you towards light. 
  • It helps gaining control over all your senses

It is said that Gayatri mantra should be chanted at least 108 times, 108 is really importance number in Hinduism.  More on significance of the number 108 in Hinduism can be read here. 

It is also important that correct pronunciation of the Gayatri Mantra is the only way to reap the benefits of Gayatri Mantra for a chanter. It is said that wrong pronunciation can lead to more harm rather than any good.   

Why Gayatri Mantra is Called Gayatri mantra

Gayaytri Mantra is actually a mantra which is written in Gayatri Chandas or meter. Hence it is called Gayatri Mantra.

Gayatri chandas has specific rules which are as following:

  • Three lines 
  • Every Line must contain eight syllables 

Gayatri chandas is called, “Gayatri Chandansam Matah” which means, “Gayatri is mother of all chandases”. It is one of the most scared chandas in Sanskrit Grammar. One fourth of the entire rig veda is composed in Gayatri chandas.  

8 Syllables in three lines – an example of Gayatri Chandas

Understanding the meaning of Gayatri Mantra

Let us understand the Gayatri Mantra in the following two parts:

  1. The “Om Bhoor Bhuvah Savh”
  2. Rest of the Part

The phases like following 

The First Phase

The first three words of the mantra

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः

Om bhoor bhuvah svah

The Second Phase

The rest of the mantra

तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं
भर्गो देवस्यः धीमहि
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्

Tat-sviturh-varenyam
Dhiyo Yo Nah Prachodayaat
Bhargo Devasya Deemahi

The bi-phase method to understand the real meaning of the Gayatri Mantra is important because the mantra denotes a direction in which we want ourselves to be in. Let us see how.   

First Phase: Understanding the OM Bhuh Bhuvaha​

Om is the primordial sound, Om is the combination of sounds corresponding to the Srijan (creation), Palan (maintenance) and Nash (destruction) aspects of the life. 

Bhuh represents bhoo-lokah the material world in which we live in

Bhuvah represents the Antrishk Lokah which is the space in which the material world exists.

Svah represents were Swarga Loka (heavnly place) or a higher plane of existence

Let us understand why these three words are mentioned in this way. Bhuh, Bhuvah & Svah are mentioned in the Gayatri Mantra in the order of subtlety. The represent how gross or subtle we perceive the life force withing our self.  The real reason behind this special mention (called Vyahridhi), is to set the direction of one’s energy from gross to subtle. (loosely meaning from one to the universe)  

These need not just mean they represent three different worlds similar to Earth. They also have a physiological significance and represent how gross or subtle we perceive life within our own self.

Second Phase: Main Mantra after the First line​

Meaning of Gayatri Mantra

Reordering of words of Gayatri Mantra

It is to be noted here that in order to explain the meaning we have reordered the words of the Gayatri Mantra. This is common way to explain Sanskrit Language, as the Sanskrit language is not liner where every single word carries a meaning separately, rather many words are come to a meaning when we join them together.

Dhimahi : Dhimahi Simply means, “WE MEDITATE/DHYAN ON” -Now, what do we meditate upon?

Tat Bhagrah: which means “THAT WISDOM/BRILLIANCE” -Now, what kind of Brilliance?

Varneyam Bharagah:  Meaning the “HIGHEST KIND OF WISDOM/BRILLIANCE” -and Now, we ask whose brilliance is this?

Devsaya Meaning “OF THE DIVINE ENTITY” -Now the question arises of which Divine entity

Savituh Varenyam Bhargah Meaning “OF THE DIVINE ENTITY WHICH MADE ALL LIFE AS WE KNOW IT” -Why do we meditate on this

Prachodayat  Meaning “TO PROPEL OR DRIVE” –Now the question arises drive/propel What?

Nah Dhiyah meaning “OUR MIND” –Now propel where in which way or direction we are to be propelled

Now, this is where the OM Bhuh Bhuvaha the Vyahridhi, which I explained above, is the direction of one from being into one to the entire universe, the direction of subtlety, from gross to subtle direction.

Meaning of Gayatri Mantra

“We meditate upon the highest wisdom/brilliance of the source of the life, which may propel or drive our minds from gross to subtler plains of existence”

“Here gross to subtler plain simply means from you as a tiny single soul to the universe or the ultimate source of creation”

The Power of Gayatri Mantra

The above meaning makes us realize the Power of Gayatri Mantra, for easier understanding the following are the reasons:

  1. Gayatri Mantra makes realize that not only you are a tiny soul/entity when it comes to the grand scale of thing but also the fact that you can become one with the it. The “Om Bhoor Bhuvah Svah” sound are for this purpose only
  2. There is source of creation, which is all illuminating and has a wisdom which is beyond all of our collective imaginations
  3. We want to belong to be in that brilliance/wisdom
  4. The moksha/salvation is in knowing that even if you’re that tiny you can be or already are a part of wisdom/brilliance of creator you just have to realize it,  

The Origin of Gayatri Mantra

So, as very common in Hinduism, if a Hindu wants his/her coming generations to remember a mantra or a tradition or anything worth remembering, they more or so weave it in the form of a story and more often the stories originate from the actual happening. As this story is passed on from generation to generation and it was so widespread that it was natural that no one knows the exact lines but still here is my effort to the story.

There was a king in the Yugah (pronounced as u-gah) of “Satyuga” called Vishamitra, he was one of the greatest kings of his time and as was very common in even modern times every king had a rishi (a spiritual guru) and it so happens that Vishwamitra’s rishi “Vashistha” was no ordinary rishi he was a “Brahm-Rishi” ( the highest form of a Guru; the guru among guru’s, a guru who is one with the Brahma the god of creation)

So, one fine day the king, Vishwamitra, went into the forest with his entourage to the hermitage of the Vasistha.  Upon seeing Vishwamitra and his entourage, Vasistha greeted them and offered food to eat and a place to rest. The king initially felt reluctant and thought to himself, “how this timid old Guru and his humble hermitage would be able to feed his entourage, a King’s entourage”.  He eventually had to agree and sat with his entourage for the food.  

Vashishta, turned to his, cows and one could see there was a special cow among the herd, Vashitha went to the cow and whispered in the cow’s ear and there was food. No ordinary food that too, the food was so tasty that it is said that, even the king’s kitchen failed against it.  

img Source: http://openlibrary.org/books/OL23365037M/Mahabharata.

Vishwamitra was awestruck. 
Vishwamitra being a king he was, thought what can this feeble old sage do with a cow like that, this cow belongs to the side of a king  and asked his guru to give his cow up and take all the that he wanted in trade.

The Brahm-Rishi refused to part with the Cow. A violent argument ensued between Vishwamitra and Vasistha. In the end, Vishwamitra had to accept the defeat and went back to his kingdom. However, he continued to be troubled by the fact that Vasistha was the one who had true power after all he was a Brahm-Rishi. Vishwamitra decided to give up all ties to the material world and went deep into the himalays to do his Tapasya (loosely can said a deep meditation in English); he wanted to become the most enlightened and, thereby, be conferred the title of ‘Brahma-rishi’.

It is said that his Tapsaya went on for many-many year which are not comprehensible by today’s standards. He had to face many issues during his Tapsya, but eventually he was able over all his desires of materials and was able to please God of creation Brahma himself and Brahma gave him a boon, and he became a Maha-rishi (Kings among Rishies). Brahma also told him that the only way he could become a rishi was to bow down to his own rishi, who was himself a Brahm-Rishi.

Left with no choice,

Vishwamitra went to seek out Vasistha. As he approached the sage’s hermitage, Vishwamitra could hear Vasistha talking with his wife, Arundhati, and Vishwamitra eavesdropped on their conversation. He learned that Vasistha had been quietly encouraging him throughout his journey to enlightenment.

Ashamed of his anger towards Vasistha, Vishwamitra fell to the ground. As his head touched the feet of Vasistha, Vishwamitra felt a divine current course through his body. He also went into spontaneous samadhi (divine communion). In that state, he heard the mystical sounds of the Gayatri mantra inside his head and recited it.

He was then blessed by Vasistha and, finally, conferred the title of ‘Brahma-rishi’.

Diffrent Gayatri Mantras for different Hindu deities

As explained earlier in the article Gayatri Mantra is actually a mantra which is written in Gayatri Chandas or meter. Hence it is called Gayatri Mantra. So one can see how different Gayatri mantras for different deities follows the same principle 

Brahma Gayatri Mantra

Om Vedathmanaya vidmahe,
Hiranya Garbhaya Dheemahi,
Thanno Brahma prachodayath

Shiva Gayatri

Om Tat Purushaaya Vidhmahe
Mahaadevaaya Dheemahe
Thanno Rudra Prachodayath.

Narayana Gayatri Mantra

Om Narayanaaya Vidhmahe
Vasudevaaya Dheemahe
Thanno Vishnu Prachodayath.

Ganesha Gayatri Mantra

Om Lambhodaraaya vidmahe
Mahodaraaya deemahi
Thanno danthi prachodayath.

Lakshmi Gayatri Mantra

Om Mahadevyaicha Vidhmahe
Vishnu Pathniyaicha Dheemahe
Thanno Lakshmi Prachodayath.

Saraswathi Gayatri Mantra

Om Vakdeviyai cha Vidhmahe
Virinji Pathniyai cha Dheemahe
Thanno Vani Prachodayath.

Krishna Gayatri Mantra

Om Dhamodharaaya Vidhmahe
Rukmani Vallabhaay Dheemahe
Thanno Krishna Prachodayath.

Rama Gayatri Mantra

Om Daserathaaya Vidhmahe
Sita Vallabhaaya Dheemahe
Thanno Raama Prachodayath.

Hanuman Gayatri Mantra

Om Aanjaneya Vidhmahe
Vayu puthraaya Dheemahe
Thanno Hanuman Prachodayath .