By Aarti Nataraj Sharma
The Gayatri Mantra has been considered as the greatest Sanskrit mantra of all times and has often been referred to as the essence of the Vedas. It is found in the oldest Veda, the Rig Veda, and comprises 24 syllables organised inside a triplet of eight syllables. It also finds a mention in the Upanishads as an important mantra. It is believed that Bhramarishi Vishwamitra spread the Gayatri mantra and explained its significance.
In the Bhagwad Gita Lord Krishna has said that “…. of poetry I am the Gayatri.”
The Gayatri Mantra is composed of two words – Gaya – meaning to reveal and Tri meaning the three Vedas. It is representative of Surya Devata or the Sun God. It is a hymn to Savitur, the Sun God and represents the solar energy of the Supreme Lord. The allusion to the Sun in the mantra is to both the physical sun as well as the divinity within all of us.
The mantra is as follows:
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaḥ Prachodayāt
It can be explained as follows:
Om - the supreme or primordial sound representing the Supreme Lord
Bhur - meaning earth
Bhuvah - meaning the sky or the astral plane
Swah - heaven
Tat – the personality of God
Savitur – Narayan
Varenyam – the Lord who illuminates creation
Bhargo – the effulgence of the Lord
Devasya – the glowing personality of the Lord
Dheemahi – offering of prayers
Dhiyo Yonah – the inspiration to the mind by the Lord
Prachodayat – guidance given by Lord Vishnu for our well-being.
Hari bhakti Vilasa decodes the definition of the mantra as under:
In simple words the mantra means ‘a prayer to expel the darkness of our minds and provide us with enlightenment.’
The Yagyavalka Samhita says chanting the Gayatri mantra ten times a day removes all sins, chanting it hundred times removes the sins of previous life and chanting it a thousand times removes the sins of the past three lives. It is also believed that if the true meaning of this prayer is realised, it gives a person to transcend all boundaries of consciousness and become one with God.
Just as the Sun illuminates the earth, the mantra fills the chanter with the potential energy in the cosmos. The mantra calls upon the light of consciousness in the hemisphere to guide our beliefs and actions. All mantras are directed towards guiding us towards enlightenment. They create vibrations that increase our intuition and de-stress us. They contain energy-based sounds and are aimed towards our spiritual awakening.
The Gayatri mantra should be chanted thrice a day, during the meeting of the two parts of a day—at sunrise, in the afternoon, and at sunset. In the morning it should be chanted after a bath/shower, ideally while sitting on an asan, and facing east.
Benefits of chanting the Gayatri Mantra
The Gayatri mantra is referred to as the poem of the Divine in the Bhagavad Gita and as an important ritual in the Upanishads. It is the most popular amongst all mantras and is referred to as the mantra for granting ‘satbuddhi’ i.e., right thinking.’ The greatness of this mantra lies in the fact that it doesn’t ask for self-enlightenment; instead, it is a prayer to fill every being of the cosmos with enlightenment and self-awareness. According to the Vedas, chanting this mantra opens up the seven chakras of the body, thereby resulting in inner awakening.
In Hindu mythology, Gayatri is another form of Goddess Annapoorna, the Goddess of Food. It is said that regular chanting of the mantra brings prosperity, food, and wealth into ones life.
The vibrations released while chanting this mantra improve concentration and help focus the mind. They also bring about a feeling of calmness and peace and improve the breathing pattern.