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The Gayatri Mantra

Inner Meaning & Analysis of the Most Popular Hindu Hymn

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A sadhu (wandering monk) by the river Ganges
Marco Brivio/Photographer's Choice/Getty Images
The Gayatri mantra is one of the oldest and most powerful of Sanskrit mantras. It is believed that by chanting the Gayatri mantra and firmly establishing it in the mind, if you carry on your life and do the work that is ordained for you, your life will be full of happiness.

The word "Gayatri" itself explains the reason for the existence of this mantra. It has its origin in the Sanskrit phrase Gayantam Triyate iti, and refers to that mantra which rescues the chanter from all adverse situations that may lead to mortality.

Goddess Gayatri is also called "Veda-Mata" or the Mother of the Vedas - Rig, Yajur, Saam and Atharva - because it is the very basis of the Vedas. It is the basis, the reality behind the experienced and the cognized universe.

The Gayatri mantra is composed of a metre consisting of 24 syllables - generally arranged in a triplet of eight syllables each. Therefore, this particular meter (tripadhi) is also known as the Gayatri Meter or "Gayatri Chhanda."

The Mantra

Aum
Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yo nah Prachodayat


~ The Rig Veda (10:16:3)

Download Gayatri Mantra MP3

The Meaning

"O thou existence Absolute, Creator of the three dimensions, we contemplate upon thy divine light. May He stimulate our intellect and bestow upon us true knowledge."

Or simply,

"O Divine mother, our hearts are filled with darkness. Please make this darkness distant from us and promote illumination within us."

Let us take each word of the Gayatri Mantra and try to understand its inherent meaning.

The First Word Om (Aum)

It is also called Pranav because its sound emanates from the Prana (vital vibration), which feels the Universe. The scripture says "Aum Iti Ek Akshara Brahman" (Aum that one syllable is Brahman).

When you pronounce AUM:
A - emerges from the throat, originating in the region of the navel
U - rolls over the tongue
M - ends on the lips
A - waking, U - dreaming, M - sleeping
It is the sum and substance of all the words that can emanate from the human throat. It is the primordial fundamental sound symbolic of the Universal Absolute.

The "Vyahrities": Bhuh, Bhuvah & Svah

The above three words of the Gayatri, which literally means "past," "present," and "future," are called Vyahrities. Vyahriti is that which gives knowledge of entire cosmos or "ahriti". The scripture says: "Visheshenh Aahritih sarva viraat, praahlaanam prakashokaranh vyahritih". Thus, by uttering these three words, the chanter contemplates the Glory of God that illumines the three worlds or the regions of experience.

The Remaining Words

  • Tat simply means "that" because it defies description through speech or language, the "Ultimate Reality."
  • Savitur means "Divine Sun" (the ultimate light of wisdom) not to be confused with the ordinary sun.
  • Varenium means "adore"
  • Bhargo means "illumination"
  • Devasya means "Divine Grace"
  • Dheemahi means "we contemplate"
  • Dhi means intellect
  • Yo means "who"
  • Nah means "ours"
  • Prachodayat means "requesting / urging / praying"

The last five words constitute the prayer for final liberation through the awakening of our true intelligence.

Finally, it needs to be mentioned that there are a number of meanings of the three main words of this mantra given in the scriptures:

Various meanings of the words used in the Gayatri Mantra

Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Earth Atmosphere Beyond Atmosphere
Past Present Future
Morning Noon Evening
Tamas Rajas Sattwa
Gross Subtle Causal
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