Category Archives: Gayatri

Sri Gayatri – Part Two

Continued from Part One

 The Mantra and Its Import

The mantra

32.1. As mentioned earlier; Gayatri is a mantra dedicated to Savitr. It originally occurs as the tenth rik in the sixty-second Sukta of the third mandala of Rig-Veda Samhita (RV: 3.62.10).It is repeated in several other texts. The metrical form, chhandas, of the mantra is Gayatri. In accordance with the characteristic requirement  of the Gayatri – chhandas, the mantra is composed of  twenty-four letters, akshara or matra (Gayatri chaturvimsatyakshara); arranged in three lines (tripaada); each paada having eight letters (ashta-aksharatmaka-paada).

32.2. The pada-patha (sequential rendering) of the mantra reads: tat- savituh- varenyam – bhargah – devasya – dhimahi – dhiyah – yah – na – prachodayath.

32.3. The anvaya, the order of the words in the mantra to elicit its meaning, is usually thus : (yah) who; (nah) our; (dhiyah) intellect; (prachodayath) inspires; (tat*) that; (devasya) radiant; (savituh) Savitr; (varenyam) most adorable; (bhargah) effulgence; (dhimahi) we meditate upon.

[* The suggestive term tat may refer either to Savitr or to his bhargah (excellence). The extended meaning of the term is Brahman (as in tat tvam asi).]

The literal meaning of the mantra would be: “We contemplate on the most adorable brilliance of Savitr who inspires our intellect”.

There are, of course, countless mystical interpretations of the mantra.

Extended form of Gayatri

33.1. The mantra, as above, revealed to Rishi Visvamitra and appearing in the Rig-Veda Samhita (RV: 3.62.10) is known as Visvamitra-Gayatri. Its extended form begins with the line comprising the Pranava (Om) and three Vyahrti-s (bhu, bhuvah and suvah). Both the forms of Gayatri are recited and contemplated upon during the Sandhya prayers. The extended form is preferred during the performance of Havana-s

33.2. The extended form of Gayatri, thus, has four lines. It is said; Gayatri mantra is four-footed (chatuspaada) when Pranava (Om) accompanies it. However, when Pranava is omitted it is only three-footed (Chatuspaada Gayatri pranavenavena saha; pranavam vina tripaada). This statement is based on the faith that the syllable Om encompasses all the Vyahrti-s; or, rather, the Vyahrti-s are extensions of Pranava Om.

Turiya paada

34.1. There is another stream of discussion on the fourth line (Turiya paada) of Gayatri in Brihadaranya Upanishad (5.14.7). The fourth line, it is said, occurs following the traditional three lines of Gayatri mantra of twenty-four syllables.  The text says that while the first three lines can be grasped by reason, the fourth line, which is mystical in its import, can be comprehended only through intuition. The Upanishad adores the fourth line as ‘Namaste turiyaaya darshataya padaaya’.

tasyā upasthānam | gāyatry asy ekapadī dvipadī tripadī catuṣpadi | apad asi |
na hi padyase | namas te turīyāya darśatāya padāya parorajase | asāv ado mā prāpad iti ||| BrhUp_5,14.7 ||

34.2. This fourth paada is said to be hidden (darshatasya) or un-manifest (apad); and, is beyond intellect.  It represents Savitr as the Purusha, shining as the very core or as the essence of the solar orb (mandala-antargata-purusha), who is the inner-being (antaryamin), the heart of all beings (sarva-jivatma).

34.3. This Turiya paada which reads ‘paro rajas ya tapati’ (the pada-pata of which is: ‘Parah- rajase- asau – adhah – maa – praapta – iti’) is, by itself, considered a maha-mantra. Its Rishi is Vimala; its chhandas is Turiya; its Devata is Paramatma; and, its objective (viniyoga) is liberation (moksha).

Asya sree darshatasya Gayatri-turiya paada-maha- mantrasya; Vimala Rishihi; Turiya chhandaha/Paramatma Devata; Moksha viniyogaha //

Literally, the mantra appears to refer to that un-shadowed effulgence (consciousness) beyond the three gunas (paro rajasa) that illumines (tapati) all existence. There are, of course, numerous other interpretations depending on the inclination of each School.

35.1. The Turiya paada, it is said, explains the preceding three paadas (paada traya) of the Gayatri mantra, in terms of triads’. It says: Hey Gayatri, your first line (eka padi) represents three realms (tri lokya); your second line (dvitiyena paadena) the three streams of knowledge (tri-vidya-rupena); and, your third line (trutiyena paadena) the vital currents (prana).

The Gayatri of three paadas rests (prathisitha) on the fourth paada (turiya paada), which is established in Satya, the Truth. This (Satya) is the real Savitr, for it is the essence (satva) of all beings and material objects – with form (murta) and without form (a-murta) – turīya-padā-aśrayaṃ satyaṃ bale pratiṣṭhitam /.

saiṣā gāyatry etasmiṁs turīye darśate pade parorajasi pratiṣṭhitā, tad vai tat satye pratiṣṭhitam; cakṣur vai satyam, cakṣur hi vai satyam; tasmād yad idānīṁ dvau vivadamānāv eyātām aham adarśam, aham aśurauṣam iti. ya evaṁ brūyāt; aham adarśam iti, tasmā eva śraddadhyāma. tad vai tat satyaṁ bale pratiṣṭhitam; prāṇo vai balam; tat prāṇe pratiṣṭhitam; tasmād āhuḥ: balaṁ satyād ogīya iti. evaṁ veṣā gāyatry adhyātmaṁ. pratiṣṭhitā sā haisā gayāṁs tatre; prāṇā vai gahāḥ; tat prānāṁs tatre; tad yad gayāṁs tatre, tasmād gāyatrī nāma. sa yām evāmūṁ sāvitrīm anvāha, eṣaiva sā. sa yasmā anvāha, tasya prānāṁs trāyate.

Here, the commentators explain that tri lokya refers to three realms (bhu, bhuvah and suvah); tri-vidya to three Vedas (Rig, Yajus and Sama); and the vital currents (prana, apana and vyana). They all rest on Turiya paada which indeed is Satya (Absolute Truth), beyond conditioned – existence.

35.2. It is also said; the eight letters [paro (2), rajas (2), ya (1), pra– 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:

śiro vai yajñasyātithyaṃ navākṣarā vai gāyatryaṣṭau / tāni yānyanvāha praṇavo navamaḥ pūrvārdho vai yajñasya gāyatrī pūrvārdhe eṣa / yajñasya tasmānnavakapālaḥ puroḍāśo bhavati   –  3.4.1.[15]

35.3. Thus, the Turiya paada the fourth-line (chaturbhi paadaih) by itself (ekame) is worthy of meditation in silence (upasate), as it represents the Purusha. Turiya, it is said, represents the highest state beyond the three gunas (paro rajas) and beyond the three known states of consciousness (waking, dreaming and deep sleep). Turiya paada is not for chanting; but ,it is for contemplation  in silence.

36.1. The mantra starting with words: ‘paro rajase….’ is accorded great significance in the Sri Vidya tradition. It is identified with the beeja Hrim, which is equivalent to Pranava Om. And; it represents pure consciousness, which is not inert (paro rajase), at ‘the end of silence’.

36.2. Further, Tripura-tapini-Upanishad which deals with the basic concepts and symbolisms of Sri Vidya, provides, among other things, the  tantric interpretations to Chatush-paada Gayatri, the Gayatri of four lines, composed of thirty-two syllables (Tt.Up : 1.2 to 1.8). 

The text compares the Turiya paada the fourth line (paro rajase sāvadom) with the fifteen-lettered Panchadasi mantra of Sri Vidya- pañcadaśākṣaraṃ traipuraṃ . The Panchadasi mantra is implicit or hidden (just as Turiya paada); and, it becomes explicit or manifest when the sixteenth (sodasha) letter Srim is added to it. Srim is Mother-Goddess’s own form.

36.3. The text interprets the Turiya Paada by relating it to the principle of Shiva: the illumination (prakasha); the pure consciousness (Shiva) latent as Paramatman (akshara) in the space of one’s heart (akshare parame vyoman). It is drawn out (vimarsa) when it is associated with the shakthi of Mother –goddess Gayatri.

ityekaṃ parabrahma rūpaṃ sarva bhūtā adhivāsaṃ turīyaṃ / jānīte so’kṣare parame vyoman yadhivasati ।

37.1. There is another interpretation. The commentaries on Sri Lalitha Sahasranama mention that the nama-s 583-585 refer to three types of Vidya-s: Atma Vidya (583); Maha Vidya (584); and, Sri Vidya (585).

ātmavidyā mahāvidyā śrīvidyā kāmasevitā । śrīṣoḍaśākṣarī vidyā trikūṭā kāmakoṭikā ॥ 118॥

In this context; it is said, Turiya Gayatri is also Atma Vidya. And, the Devi manifests in the form of Turiya Gayatri; and, also as the eight-lettered ‘atma-ashtakshara- vidya’ of the Sri Vidya tradition (om- hrim-hamsaha -soham-svaha).


Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri

38.1. Gayatri is a Universal mantra. It is said; each one has to understand and experience it in her/his own way. The aspirants are advised to create her/his own rendering of the essence of the mantra, as each perceives it. Of the mantras of such genre the one that comes to mind quickly is the celebrated Gayatri created by Sri Aurobindo.

38.2. Sri Aurobindo gave his own Gayatri mantra of twenty-four syllables:

Tat savitur varam rūpam jyotiḥ parasya dhīmahi yannaḥ satyena dīpayet

Let us meditate on the most auspicious  form of Savitri , on the Light of the Supreme which shall illumine us with the Truth.

38.3. It is said; Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri is addressed to Savitri, daughter of the Sun ‘as Satya (the Truth), the pure consciousness”, “the power of inspired speech which brings the illumination of the supreme Truth’. Savitri is the symbol of dawn, the Truth that comes from the Sun. Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri Mantra meditates upon the auspicious form of the Sun, the Light that illumines us with the Truth.

38.4. The scholar Shri R.Y. Deshpande explains that Sri Aurobindo’s Gayatri Mantra is slightly different from the traditional Gayatri Mantra given to us by Rishi Visvamitra, which seeks illumination of our intuition and of our intellect.

In Sri Aurobindo’s mantra, the emphasis is on the auspicious form – varam rupam. It invokes Gayatri in her most auspicious form to come and reside in us, amongst us, within us. This is the difference between the two: – the first invokes a spiritual perception; the second invokes her as a form in us. The coming down of that Grace is the birth of Savitri.

Om and the Vyahrti-s

39.1. 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, bhuvah and suvah). Both the forms of Gayatri are recited and contemplated upon during the Sandhya prayers. The extended form is preferred during the performance of havana-s.

The concept of Vyahrtis, it is said, was derived from Taittriya Upanishad; and, it is important by itself. 

The Pranava Om always recited at the beginning and the end of the mantra is not just a sound or symbol. It is verily the Bija from which Gayatri emanates. Gayatri which is Savitri adores Pranava as Brahman (Brahma Swaroopam) encompassing all existence.

We shall briefly talk about Pranava and the Vyahrtis.

Pranava Om

40.1. Pranava – Om – enjoys unrivalled pre-eminence in the Indian traditions. It is hailed as the Moola-mantra (the root of all mantras), Akshara (The Letter) or Ekakshara (the single syllable). It is the auspicious sound of initiation (diksha).Every recitation, every prayer and every worship-action is preceded by utterance of Om. The study of the Vedas commences with the sound of Om; and, the student says to himself, fondly, ‘with this I shall attain Brahman’ (Taittiriya Upanishad-1.8.1). Om is the most comprehensive universal sound-symbol (udgita). Aitareya Brahmana (2.5.7) explains Om as the unity of three matras: ‘a’, ‘u’ and ‘ma’ (akaara-ukaara-makaara).

ōmiti brahma. ōmitīdaō sarvam. ōmityētad-anukṛtirha sma vā apyōśrāvayētyā-śrāvayanti. ōmiti sāmāni gāyanti. ōōśōmiti śastrāṇi śaōsanti   . ōmityadhvaryuḥ pratigaraṅ pratigṛṇāti. ōmiti brahma prasauti. ōmityagni-hōtram-anujānāti. ōmiti brāhmaṇaḥ pravakṣyannāha brahmōpāpnavānīti. brahmaiva-ōpāpnōti৷৷1.8.1৷৷

40.2. Sri Gauda-Paada in his celebrated Karika on Mandukya Upanishad expands on that and avers ‘AUM represents manifest and un-manifest aspects of Brahman’. It is the single syllable that symbolizes and embodies Brahman, the Absolute Reality. It is the Pranava that which pervades all existence; and it is our very life breath. Sri Gauda-Paada explains; Vaisvanara in waking state is A, the first part of AUM. Teijasa in dream state is U, the second part of AUM. And, Prajna in deep sleep is M, the third part of AUM, concluding the sounds of the earlier two parts. The Syllable AUM in its entirety stands for the fourth state – Turiya – one beyond the phenomenal existence, supremely blissful and non-dual. It is the source of all existence. AUM represents Ultimate Reality.AUM is thus verily the Self itself. Meditate on AUM as the Self.

40.3. Taittiriya Aranyaka (10.33) also declares ‘Omkara is indeed the very representation of Brahman’ (Om ityekaksharam Brahma); and the sum and substance of all the Vedas. And, all manifestations and expressions are rooted in Om (tad yatha). All the texts, therefore, advice the aspirants to meditate on Omkara.

Omi tyekÀksaram brahma | agnirdevatÀ brahma ityÀrsam | gÀyatram chandam paramÀtmam sarÂpam | sÀyujyam viniyogam [[10-33-1]

40.4. For the purpose of meditation, Omkara is itself regarded a mantra. Its Rishi is Prajapathi; its chhandas is Gayatri; and its Devata is Paramatma. The purpose of meditation (viniyoga) is liberation (vimukthi – phala – siddhidam).

Om and Gayatri

41.1. As regards the Pranava at the commencement of Gayatri, the two are intimately related. The traditional view is that the Pranava, Vyahrti-s and the Gayatri form an integral unit. Taittiriya Aranyaka (2.11.1-8) confirms that scriptural recitation always begins with the chanting of the syllable Om, followed by the three Vyahrtis and the Gayatri verse (as in RV 3.62.10).

aksare parame vyoman nyasmindeva adhi visve niseduryastanna veda kimaca karisyati ya ittavidusta ime samasata iti trineva prayunkta  bhur bhuvas svarityahai tadvai vacas satyam yadeva vacas satyam tatprayunkatha savitrÁm gÀyatram  triranvaha paccho’rdh arcarso’navanam savita sriyah prasavita sriyameva pnotyatho prajnatayaiva pratipada chandamsi pratipadyate |[2-11-1-15]|

41.2. 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.

41.3. It is said; even if Vyahrti-s are omitted, for some reason, the Pranava should always precede the Gayatri. Pranava is indeed the Bija of Gayatri-mantra. The Gayatri-japa, which is the most important sequence of the Sandhya, should invariably include both the Pranava (Om) and the Vyahrti-s (bhu, bhuvah and suvah) [Pranava vyahrtiyutam gayatrim vai japet tatah].

41.4. Maitrayani Upanishad (prapāṭhaka 6- 2) says: Gayatri with Vyahrtis; and Pranava with Vyahrtis are but two names of Brahman that is light. Worship (upaasita) Brahman using Om (Omithyaksharena), Vyahrtis (vyahrityabhi) and Savitri (Savitra che iti). That (tat) Brahman is one with Om – upāsito Omityeta tad akṣareṇa vyāhṛtibhiḥ sāvitryā ceti .


42.1. The Pranava Om in the first line of Gayatri is followed by three utterances   BhuBhuvah and Suvah, which are termed as Vyahrti-s. The term Vyahrti (or Vyahara) literally means well articulated speech or a considered statement. They are also taken as syllables of mystical significance. Vyahriti is also understood as that which sheds light on our knowledge of the universe (Visheshenh Aahritih sarva viraat praahlaanam prakash-karanah vyahriti iti).

42.2. There are several myths associated with the origin of the Vyahrtis. There are also variations in the explanations provided in some Upanishads and their associated texts. For instance:

: – Chandogya Upanishad (2.23.2-3) states that Prajapathi who is the embodiment of Truth meditated upon all existence (lokan abhyatapat). Out of his contemplation arose three Vedas (trayi vidya). From out of the Vedas that he meditated upon, there emerged (sampra savant) these syllables (etani aksharani): bhubhuvah and suvah.

As Prajapathi contemplated further (tani abhyatapat), the syllable Om (Omkara samprasravat) emerged from these (vyahtri-s). He then realized that Om permeates every form of speech (omkara sarva vac samtrnna), just as the network of veins (sankuna) is spread over the entire leaf (sarvani parnanai). Prajapathi exclaimed ‘Verily all this is Om! Verily all this is Om! ‘ (Omkara eva idam sarvam; Omkara eva idam sarvam)’.

: – Chandogya Upanishad at another place (4.27.1-3) states: Prajapathi contemplated upon all worlds (lokan abhyatapat); and extracted their essence (rasam pravrhat): fire from the earth (agnim prithivyah); air from the intermediate-space   (vayum antariksat); and Aditya (sun) from the space beyond (adityam divah).

As he contemplated on the three deities, he derived from their essence (rasam pravrhat): Rg (Rig-Veda) from Agni (agneh rcah); Yajus from Vayu (vayoh yajumsi); and Sama from Aditya (samani adityat).

Prajapathi further contemplated on the three Vedas (tryim vidyam)   and extracted their essence: Bhu from Rig-Veda (bhu iti rgbhyah), Bhuvah from Yajur Veda (bhuvah iti yajurbhyah) and Suvah from Sama Veda (suvah iti samabhyah).

: – Taittiriya Brahmana (2.2.42) offers a different explanation. It mentions that Prajapathi at the end of his meditation uttered Bhu; and the earth come into existence (sa bhur iti vyaharat, sa bhumim asrjata).He then uttered Bhuvah; and this brought forth the mid-region (a bhuvah iti vyaharat, antariksham asrjata).And, finally Prajapathi exclaimed Suvah; and, the upper realm got formed (sasuvah iti vyaharat, sa divam asrjata). Thus the three Vyahrtis (utterances) correspond to these realms (eta vai vyahrtya ime lokah).

: – Maitrayani Upanishad (6.6) expands on that and relates the Vyahrti-s to Purusha, the Cosmic Being. And, it says: at the beginning, the existence was inarticulate. Then, after deep contemplation Prajapathi uttered: BhuBhuvah and Suvah. That threefold utterance   formed the gross body of Purusha: Bhu his feet (bhu paadah); Bhuvah is his navel (nabhir bhuvah); and Suvah is his head (suvaritya shiroh). And, Aditya (sun) became his eyes (Aditya chakshu).

43.1. Thus, initially, in these texts, Vyahrti-s are presented as utterances of mystical significance that stand for regions, realms or worlds (lokah) – (eta vai vyahrtaya ime lokahTB . Bhuh is earth; Bhuvah is mid-region; and, Suvah is the upper region. The Taittiriya Upanishad explains the three terms as: bhuh – ayamlokah (this world here in front of us); bhuvah – antariksham (the mid region); and suvah –asau lokah (the world beyond).

44.1. It is explained that in these references Bhu etc do not mean material earth etc. But, they symbolically suggest the principles associated with earth, atmosphere and space beyond. For instance:

:- 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).

: – Similarly, the second Vyahrti Bhuvah signifies that principle which maintains all objects and beings (bhavayati sthapayati visvam iti). It is said; Bhuvah symbolizes the mid-region (antariksha) which provides space for existence and maintenance of the first Vyahrti Bhu,  the earth (bhavaty asmin jagat). It also illumines the world of earth (prakashayati visvam) .  The later text Parasara Smrti mentions that the Vyahrti Bhuvah signifies that which produces, maintains all things till their destruction; and that which again produces them.

: – And, the third Vyahrti Suvah, the upper realm is that which provides light, warmth, coolness and life to the two other lower regions: Bhuvah (mid-region) and Bhu (earth). Suvah signifies that which is truly adorable or sought after in all earnestness (sushtu varaniyatvat suvah); and it is pure knowledge. It also symbolizes the ideal state of bliss, Ananada; the greatest blessing.

45.1. But, in the later texts and commentaries, the Vyahrti-s were interpreted as or identified with almost everything that could be tied into a set – of – three. Following that, the Vyahrti-s came to be associated with a wide-range (almost endless sets) of meanings and interpretations. I have, at the end of this paragraph listed just a few of those, in the appended table.

45.2. 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); three Vedas; Vedic gods – Agni, Vayu and Aditya ; three realms (loka); three vital energies (prana, apana and vyana); three modes of powers or expressions (iccha, kriya and jnana); trinity of Brahma , Vishnu and Shiva; three existential factors as set out in the Samkhya (PradhanaPurusha and Kaala); three chakras of Yoga (muladharavishuddha and sahasrara);  and, the three aspects of Brahman (Sat, Chit and Ananada) etc.

No. Factor


Bhu Bhuvah  Suvah
1 Loka (realm) Prithvi Antariksha Dyur-loka
2 Veda Rig-Veda Yajur-veda Sama-Veda
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

46.1. The three Vyahrti-s gain a special significance in their association with the Gayatri mantra. The traditional view is that the Pranava (Om), the Vyahrti-s and the Gayatri mantra are of identical nature. Sri Madhwacharya in his Rg-bhashya states that the Vyahrti- s BhuBhuvah and Suvah denote virtues associated with Brahman, such as: completeness (purna); absolute supremacy (niradhika-sreshthah); and, unique bliss (ananda). He also explains that the import of the Pranava is expanded in the Vyahrti-s; and the meaning of the Vyahrti-s is made clear in Gayatri.

46.2. It is said; the Vyahrti-s bring out the aspects of Brahman that could be meditated upon. The contemplation on Vyahrti-s is also the contemplation on the aspects of Pranava, which leads to release (moksha). Through that, one attains svarajya the state of independence beyond bondage (apnoti svarajyam).

46.3. The other significant association of the Vyahrti-s with the Gayatri is their representation as the three subtle planes of existence (loka); or regions of experience; or as three states or levels of consciousness experienced during meditation on Gayatri.

Fourth Vyahrti – Mahah

47.1. The Vyahrti-s: BhuBhuvah and Suvah are together known as Maha-Vyahrti-s. Because, they are the fundamental realms (loka), universally accepted and integrated into Gayatri mantra. They are also the Vyahrti-s mentioned in the older texts.

47.2. Taittiriya Upanishad (Shiksha valli: 1-7) mentions ‘BhuBhuvah and Suvah are the three Vyahrti-s’ (bhur bhuva suvariti va etaastritayo vyahrutaya). And, says, in addition, that the son of Rishi Mahachamas had the knowledge of the fourth Vyahrti called Mahah (chaturthim mahachamasya pravadayate).This is the adorable loka (maha pujayam), higher than Suvah; the loka of Aditya, the antaryamin who ennobles (mahat) all the worlds. Mahah is Aditya (mahah iti adityah), one who nourishes life everywhere; and one who is adored by those who aspire for liberation.

47.3. Taittiriya Upanishad further states: These are the four Vyahrti-s. And, everything in this existence is fourfold. One who understands, through meditation, the four states in the four planes of existence, knows Brahman (ta yo Veda sa brahma). Everyone loves such a knower. And, the gods bring him offerings (sarvesmai deva balim avahanti). Prachinayogya (descendent of sage Prachinayoga) was initiated into this meditation.

47.4. The passage goes on to describe Mahah: as Chandra who supports all plant-life and celestial bodies (sarvani jyotishee maheeyante); as Brahma who presides over Yajna (brahmanavava sarve Veda maheeyante); and as Anna that nourishes all the vital forces (annena vava sarve prana maheeyante).  It declares ‘Mahah is Atman; Mahah is Brahman that pervades everything (maha iti tad brahma)’.

Other Vyahrti-s

48.1. As said earlier; BhuBhuvah and Suvah are the fundamental (Maha) Vyahrti-s; and Mahah is the fourth one. In addition, three other Vyahrti-s are mentioned : janah,  tapah and satyam, bringing the total to seven Vyahrti-s .  Janahtapah  and  satyam,  in the ascending order, are placed above Suvah . These Vyahrti-s, referred to as loka-s, are also understood as the levels of consciousness.

48.2. 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. The seven lower (adho) loka-s placed below the earth (Bhuloka) are: atala, vitala, sutala, tala-tala, maha-tala, rasatala and patala the lowest loka. The seven upper (urdhva) loka-s positioned above the earth, in ascending order, are: bhuvarloka, svarloka, maharloka, janaloka, tapoloka and satyaloka the highest loka.


49.1. Symbolically, the Bhu (earth) is deemed to represent the physical (bodily) consciousness, the basic needs; while the below (adho) loka-s represent the lower levels of consciousness.

49.2. As regards the upper realms (urdhva loka), the six upper realms are said to symbolically represent , in that order :

(i) emotions , desire for approval or love;

(ii) intellect , logic and reasoning ;

(iii) subtle energies of spirit ;

 (iv) psychic realm, listening and observing in stillness ;

(v) intuition, direct experience of reality of Self;


(vi)  unbound , non-dual consciousness.


These levels are , in a similar manner, associated with the chakras, the energy centres or seats of consciousness in human body.

49.3. It is also said, janah represents the realm from which akasha and other elements originate (jana janane; karturyasun); tapah is the realm from which all thoughts arise (tapah alochane) representing knowledge and enlightenment; and satyam is eternal, immutable in space or time. Satyam is the highest bliss and the liberating knowledge.

49.4. And , there is a faith that the desirable objects that aid ones progress arise from these seven lokas or planes, of existence, which the Vyahrti-s represent. The presiding deities of the planes of existence are called upon to guide us to the Truth that liberates.

The seven Vyahrti-s and Om

50.1. Though each of the seven Vyahrti-s represents a distinct loka or a level of consciousness their utterance is always preceded by the Pranava Om, the symbol of supreme reality. The tradition regards each Vyahrti as a mantra in its own right.

: – The Rishis of the seven Vyahrti-s are, in order, Atri, Brighu, Kutsa, Vashista, Gautama, Kashyapa and Angirasa.

: – The Devata-s of the mantras are: Agni Vayu, Arka (Surya, Aditya), Vagisha (Brihaspathi), Varuna, Indra and Visvedevah.

: – And, the metrical forms, the chhandas, of these Vyahrti-s are Gayatri, Ushnik, Anushtup, Brhati, Pankti, Trishtup, and Jagati.

: – As regards the Pranava mantra that precedes each Vyahrti, Brahma is the Rishi, Gayatri is its chhandas, and Paramatma is its Devata. And, moksha, liberation is its viniyoga, the objective (mokshado viniyogah).

50.2. All the Vyahrti-s emanate from Pranava Om. The contemplation on Vyahrti-s is intended to secure (viniyogamoksha, liberation. The mantra – Om âpo jyotih rasomritam brahma bhûr bhuvas suvar Om – pays tribute to the all- comprehensive nature of Om : “Om, the water, the light, the very essence in which we exist, the Absolute, the physical world, the astral realm, the mental realm, all are indeed Om”.

50.3. Prapancha Sara a tantric text graphically describes the intimate relation between the Pranava and the Vyahrti-s. It explains; the first matra of the Pranava (akaara) is the first of the Vyahrti-s (Bhu).The second matra of the Pranava (u-kaara) is the second Vyahrti (Bhuh); and the third matra of the Pranava (ma-kaara) is the third of the Vyahrti-s (Suvah).The Bindu (.) which is the ardha (half)-matra is the Vyahrti Mahah; and the nada the sound of the Pranava is the fifth Vyahrti Janah. The Shakthi or the energy of the Pranava is the sixth Vyahrti Tapah; while the sublime peace (shanthi) of Pranava is the seventh Vyahrti Satyam.

50.4. Another text describes the Vyahrti-s as the limbs of the Cosmic-person (Virat-purusha), where Bhu is his feet; Bhuvah the knees; Suvah the loins; Mahah the navel; Janah the heart; Tapah the throat; and Satya the midpoint of his forehead.

Elongated Gayatri

51.1. The seven Vyahrti-s each accompanied by Om are followed by the three lines of the traditional 24-syllable Gayatri mantra; giving rise to the longer version of Gayatri. The mantra concludes with an invocation to the Goddess of light praying to illuminate our path as we progress towards higher consciousness.

51.2. The longer version of Gayatri is usually invoked during Pranayama preceding meditation on Gayatri.

51.3. The Vyahrti-s bring out the aspects of Brahman that are suitable for contemplation: Om is purna, the perfect; Bhu is nitya, the eternal; Bhuh is shristi-karta the creator; Suvah is svatantra, the unbound; Mahah is mahaniya, the adorable; Janah is aja beginning-less; Tapah is jnana-prakasha, the light of knowledge; and Satyam is niyama the true order that prevails in the Universe.

Mantra’s import

52.1. 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’, there is, however, no universally accepted translation of it in English. Each has to delve deep into her/himself, understand it in her/his own way; and realize her/his own Gayatri through reasoning grasped in faith. As sage Uddalaka counsels ‘śraddhatsva somyeti; have faith, my dear’ (Ch. Up. 6.12.2).

52.2. The mantra is said to belong to the Devata Savitr; hence its original name is Savitri. But, the mantra is not directly addressed to Devata Savitr. The Savitr, here, is verily the Purusha, the Brahman, the supreme and absolute spirit settled in the hearts of all beings.

52.3. The discussion on the meaning, significance and symbolisms of the mantra is one thing; the diligent practice of its contemplation is quite another. As Sri Shankara says, the efficacy of the Gayatri is in its meditation –practice (abhyasa) and in the realization of its true nature (tasmad Gayatri evam prakaropasya).


53.2. The Dhyana –slokas and the mantras invoking Gayatri Devata (Gayatri Avahaana), preparatory to reciting (japa) her mantra and meditating upon her form are the principal sources for Gayatri-iconography. Through these verses, recited with great reverence and devotion, the worshipper awakens and enlivens the potent Goddess residing in her/ his heart-cave. In the purity of her/his thought, word and deed, the worshipper   visualizes Gayatri Devata in her various auspicious forms, with the aid of verses recited with great earnestness.

54.1. Gayatri is said to manifest her shakthi in three forms, as: Gayatri in the morning (pratah-savana); Savitri in the midday (madyanh savana) and Sarasvathi in the evening (saayam savana) – [Aitareya Brahmana-13.25]. But, it is also said; Gayatri herself represents all three savana-s (Gayatri vai sarvani savanani). Her individual forms are named ‘vyasti’; while her integrated form is ‘samasti’.

54.2. She is the sum or the aggregate (samasti svarupini) of all that is divine (Sarvadevata Svarupini; Sarvamantra Svarupini). As Gayatri in the morning she is Bramha svarupini; as Savitri in the mid-day is Rudra svarupini; and as Sarasvathi in the evening is Vishnu svarupini.


54.3. Mahanirvana Tantra (56-60) provides a slightly different version of her manifestations. And, it asks the Sadhaka :

“In the morning meditate upon Her ( Devi Gayatri)  in Her Brahmi form, as a Maiden of ruddy hue, with a pure smile, with two hands, holding a gourd full of holy water, garlanded with crystal beads, clad in the skin of a black antelope, seated on a Swan (56). At midday meditate upon Devi Gayatri in Her Vaishnavi form, of the colour of pure gold, youthful, with full and rising breasts, situated in the Solar disc, with four hands holding the conch-shell, discus, mace, and lotus, seated on Garuda, garlanded with wild-flowers (57-58). In the evening meditate upon Devi Gayatri as Maheshwari of a white colour, clad in white raiment, old and long past her youth, with three eyes, beneficent, propitious, and seated on a Bull, holding in her lotus-like hands a noose, a trident, a lance, and a skull (59-60) 

[Mahanirvana Tantra -Translated by Arthur Avalon (Sir John Woodroffe)-1913].

Gayatri Yantra

55.1. The following are some of the verses recited more commonly, adoring Gayatri Devata.

pratar dhyayami gayatrim, ravimandala-madhyagam
rg-vedam uccarayantim raktavarnam kumarikam
akshamalakaram brahmadevatyam hamsavahanam’ 

In the morning, I meditate upon Gayatri- young and glowing; red in complexion; wearing garland of rosaries; and riding a swan. She is reciting Rig-Veda. Gayatri who is of the form   of Brahma is settled in the solar orb.

madhyandine tu savitrim ravimandalamadhyagam
yajur-vedam vyaharantim svetam sulakaram sivam
yuvatim rudradevatyam dhyayami vrshavahanam’ 

At noon she is Savitri. She is auspicious looking young person, well adorned in white garments. She is engaged in Yajur Veda. I meditate upon Savitri of the form of God Rudra, riding a bull and settled in the solar orb.

sayam sarasvatim syamam ravimandalamdhyagam
sama-vedam vyaharantim cakrayudhadharam subham
dhyayami vishnudevatyam vrddham garudavahanam

In the evening, she is Sarasvathi. She is auspicious looking mature person; and is in the form of Vishnu dark in complexion, holding Chakra and riding Garuda. She is reciting Sama Veda. I meditate upon Sarasvathi settled in the solar orb.



Mukta-vidruma – hema-nila-dhavala-chayair mukhair-tryakshnaih,
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, coral, gold, sapphire, and white. Each of her heads is adorned with three eyes and crescent moon upon her diamond studded crown. She is seated on a lotus. She is endowed with ten arms. She holds in her six hands: the goad, the whip, the white skull, the mace, the conch and the discus; as also two lotuses in two other hands. With the other hands she gestures protection (abhaya mudra) and granting blessings (varada mudra).She is the very embodiment of mystic utterances of great philosophical import.

As regards the symbolisms associated with the iconographic features of Gayatri Devata, her five heads are variously interpreted as : five vital energies, pancha prana (prana, apana,  vyana, udana and samana ) ; five fundamental elements , pancha tattva (earth, water, air, fire and sky ) ; the five parts of Gayatri mantra – (i) Om ; (ii) Bhu, Bhuvah , Suvah; (iii) tat savitur varenyam; (iv) Bhargo devasya;  and,  (v) dhimahi.

Gayatri painting

References and Sources

Rgveda Darshana –vol 3- Gayatri mantra By Prof.SK.Ramachandra Rao

Vaidika Sahitya Charitre By Dr.NS Anantharangachar

Rg Vedic Suktas –Gayatri and others By Swami Amritananda

All pictures are from internet


Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Devi, Gayatri


Tags: , , , , ,

Sri Gayatri – Part one

The Rishi , The Chhandas and The  Devata

Tat savitur varenyam
Bhargo devasya dheemahi
Diyo yonah prachodayat
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 devotees is indeed very ancient; and , is regarded as the most sacred of all the mantras. The tradition accords the Gayatri  unrivaled 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 which attempts to visualize the un-differentiated divine principle. The accent, intonation and articulation too play a role in the efficacy of a mantra.

And, Mantra is neither a magical formula, nor is it a logical sentence; it  connects in a very special way to the objective and subjective aspects of reality.  The term Mantra is explained as mananat trayate mantrah; the contemplation of which liberates. It is the harmonious and powerful union of mind (Manas) and word (Vac). It is  the living sound, transcending beyond the mental plane. The fruitfulness of a mantra depends upon the authority of the teacher who imparts it and the spiritual preparedness of the student who is initiated (Diksha) into it. It has to be grasped in humility, earnestness and faith.

A prayer, prarthana, is a submission (Atma-nivedana) ; 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 invocationIt 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  (nama, rupa) 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

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  , which was composed in Gayatri Chhandas,  as Savitri’ (Gayatrim-eva 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’ (sāvitryās tu paraṃ na-asti maunāt satyaṃ viśiṣyate: Manu – 2.83c).

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’.

imayo veti  iada vā va tatpukara yo’yamākāśo’syemā catasro diśaścatasra upadiśo dalasasthā āsamarvāgvicarata etau prāādityā etā upāsitom ityetad-akarea  vyāhtibhi sāvitkryā ceti 6. 2

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 ( 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).

sā haiṣā gayāṃstatre prāṇā vai gayāstatprāṇāṃstatretadyadgayāṃstatre tasmād-gāyatrī nāma sa yāmevāmūmanvāhaiṣaiva sā sa yasmā anvāha tasya prāṇāṃstrāyate 

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).

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) – 

gāyatrī. gāyateḥ. stuti. karmaṇas, .tri. gamanā.vā.viparītā (7,12); trigamana trishu rupeshu, manasi, vachasi vipushi cheti gamanam gatim dadati sa .

That is to say; Gayatri inspires or finds expression in our mental process, speech , behavior 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 (RV_5,082.01) 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 glossarydescribes 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

6.1. Rishi in the Rig-Vedic context is an illumined wise seer; an author of a Rik – a mantra expressing the Truth revealed to him. It is not a product of his reasoning or intellect, but of an intuitive perception. And according to Yaska, those who envisioned the mantras (mantra-drastarah) are Rishis (ṛṣir. darśanāt. stomān. dadarśa  –  Nirukta 2.11). 

A Rishi is therefore a wise seer, a Drastara, one who visualizes a mantra. He is also the one who hears. The seers were the “hearers of the Truth” (kavayaha sathya srutah).

Sri Aurobindo described Shruthi as “divine recordings of cosmic sounds of truth” heard by the Rishis. The Vedas are thus Shruthis, revealed scriptures. That is the reason; the Vedas are Apaurusheya, not authored by any agency.

[Patanjali , while commenting upon Panini’s Ashtadhyayi makes a distinction between the expression tena proktam (4,3.101)  which suggests that it was revealed by him; and the expression pūrvaiḥ kṛtam (4,4.133) which means that it was composed or authored by him. The general idea is that a mantra is not composed by a Rishi ; but it is revealed to him by intuitive perception.]. 

The term Rishi is defined as “rishati jnānena samsāra-pāram” , meaning one who goes beyond the mundane world by means of knowledge. Further, some scholars think the root ‘drish’ (sight) might have given rise to root ‘rish’ meaning ‘to see’. That is to say; the Rishi is one who envisioned the entities beyond the range of human senses, conceived the self evident knowledge (svatah pramana) and realized the Truth by direct intuition.

Vamadeva, a Rishi in one of his hymns (RV 4.3.16) describes himself as the illumined one, expressing the Truth revealed to him (ninya vachasmi).

The Sanskrit lexicon Amarakosha (2.7. 43) also says that one who speaks the Truth is Rishi (Rishyah satya-vachasah). A Rishi in the Rig Veda is a sage who realized the truth

Further, it is also said; a Kavi is the most exalted Rishi. And, 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.

Such a Kavi is a Drastara, a visionary (darsanat), the one who sees the unseen (kavihi-krantha-darshano-bhavathi). Katyayana and Yaska describe a Rishi in similar terms: Rishis are visionaries says Katyayana (Drastara rishayah smartarah);). According to the Brhad-devata attributed to Saunaka, a Rishi is one who has direct experience of the Reality (Rishibis tattva darshabihi – Brd- introduction-10) .

6.2. The Rishi not only gives utterance to a mantra but is also at the very essence, core of the mantra . 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.

6.3 However all sages are not Rishis; just as not all Rishis are Kavis. Yasca charya makes a significant classification even among the Rishis. He draws a clear distinction between a Sakshath-krutha-Rishi, the seer who has the direct intuitional perception; and the Shrutha-rishi, the one heard it from the seers and remembered what he heard.

The Srutha-rishi is like the mirror or the moon that basks in the glory of the sun. The moon and the mirror both take in the glory of the sun and put forth the shine to the world in their own way. Similarly, the Srutha_rishi obtained the knowledge by listening to the Sakshath- Krutha-Rishi, and more importantly by remembering what he heard.

The bifurcation of the Vedas/Upanishads on one hand (as Shruthi, as heard) ; and the Vedangas, Shastras, Puranas, Ithihasa etc. on the other (as Smriti, as remembered) , stems from the above concept.  Smriti, in general, is secondary in authority to Shruti.

[Baudhayana Dharma sutra ( gives a list of different types of Rishis to whom the tarpanas (oblations) are to be offered (tarpayāmi):  Sruta Rishi (One who hears from his teachers); Kanda Rishi (one who masters a section, Kanda , of a text); Tapa Rishi (one who is engaged  in  severe austerities); Satya Rishi (one who is intensely committed  to what is Truth); Deva Rishi (a Rishi of divine nature); Saptarishi (one among the  seven great sages); Maha Rishi (exalted and revered Rishi); Parama Rishi (Supreme Rishi); Brahma Rishi (one who has realized Brahman); Raja Rishi (a sagely king) ; and, Jana Rishi (a sage among the society).

In addition it also mentions ṛṣikās (female Rishis); ṛṣi.patnīs (wives of the Rishis); ṛṣi.putrās (sons of the Rishis) ; and,  ṛṣi.pautrās (grandsons of the Rishis).]

Gayatri appears before Visvamitra

7.1. The sixty-second Sukta (RV_3,062), commencing with the rik : imā u vām bhṛmayo manyamānā yuvāvate na tujyā abhūvan,  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.

7.2. It is the tenth mantra of this Sukta (RV_3,062.10) – tat savitur vareṇyam bhargo devasya dhīmahi |dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt || – that has come to be celebrated as Gayatri mantra. As said earlier; it is in Gayatri Chhandas; its Devata is Savitr; and its Rishi is Visvamitra.

8.1. Visvamitra is a celebrated name in the Indian traditions. There have been sages in the Vedic literature, in Puranas and in Epics who carry the name of Visvamitra. It is surmised; all those sages may not refer to one and the same person. They could be the descendants of an ancient Rishi renowned as Visvamitra.

8.2. Visvamitra mentioned in Rig-Veda is a great Rishi. As many as forty-six Suktas and a number of other mantras in Rig-Veda Samhita are ascribed to Rishi Visvamitra. He is the contemporary of another great sage Vashista, to whom about one hundred – and – four Suktas are ascribed.

8.3. 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 descendant of Gathi (the King of Kanyakubja?). Visvamitra – earlier known as Visvaratha – it is said, was the son of King Kaushika-Ushiratha (meaning, Ushiratha the son or the descendant of Kushika) who was valorous as the thousand-eyed Indra himself (sahasraksha-dyuti).

8.4. The Visvamitra and his sons mentioned in several other passages of the Rig-Veda are also described as Kausika-s, the descendants of Kushika. This Kushika is a mythical figure. And the term Kushika is also an epithet for Indra. The decedents of Kushika – Kaushika – were a family of traditional purohita-s, the family priests of Kings; and, were the followers of sage Angirasa, especially devoted to worship of Indra.

8.5. Yaska-charya recognizes Visvamitra as the purohita of King Sudasa (viśvāmitra.ṛṣiḥ.sudāsaḥ.paijavanasya.purohito.babhūba– Nirukta: 2.24).

It is said; Visvamitra also helped Bharatas in crossing the rivers Vipasa (Beas) and Satadru (Sutlej) that were in full flow .The Bharatas, apparently engaged in a raid, found it difficult to cross the rivers in high flood. But, Visvamitra, by prayers, induced the waters to subside (RV: 3.121) – viśvāmitrebhir idhyate ajasraḥ.

8.6. Among the many sons of Visvamitra, Madhuchandas Vaiśvāmitra is well known. The first mantra of Rig-Veda (Agni mele purohitam…) is ascribed to Madhuchandas. He is the Rishi of the first hundred-and-two mantras of Rig-Veda; and, hence he earned the title ‘Satarchina’.

8.7. But the most debated of Visvamitra’s decedents is surely Sunahsepa. A story narrated in Aitareya Brahmana (7.13-18) brings together Visvamitra and the lad Sunahsepa Ajigarti (son of the poor and greedy Ajigarta Sauyavasi). It is said; Visvamitra adopted Sunahsepa Ajigarti as his son; or rather, the boy gave up his family and selected Visvamitra as his father. The later text Vasishta Dharma- sutra (17.33-35) cites this as an example of a case where a boy gives himself in adoption.

svayam upāgatas caturthas //śunaḥśepas vai yūpe niyuktas devatās tuṣṭāva(stu-) / tasya iha devatās pāśam vimumucus(vi-muc-) tam ṛtvijasūcus(vac-) mama eva ayam putras astu(as-) iti tān ha na saṃpede(sam-pad-) / te saṃpādayāmāsus(sam-pad-)  eṣas eva yam kāmayet(kam-) tasya putras astu(as-) iti / tasya ha viśvāmitras hotā āsīt(as-) tasya putra-tvam iyāya(i-) – Va.17.34-35 

Another text, Bahudayana Dharma-Sutra (mātā.pitṛ.vihīno yaḥ svayam ātmānaṃ (dadyāt sa svayaṃ.dattaḥ – classifies such an adopted-son as one among twelve types of sons; but, places him below the biological (aurasa) sons’

(aurasaṃ putrikā.putraṃ kṣetrajaṃ datta.kṛtrimau / gūḍhajaṃ ca apaviddhaṃ ca riktha.bhājaḥ (pracakṣate / kānīnaṃ ca sahoḍhaṃ ca krītaṃ paunarbhavaṃ tathā / svayaṃ.dattaṃ niṣādaṃ ca gotra.bhājaḥ pracakṣate2.2.3.31-32).

Hence, the boy Sunahsepa came to be known as kritrima –vaisvamitro – devaratah, the god-given non-natural son of Visvamitra.

Sunahsepa grew into a great Rishi. The hymns 24-30 in the first mandala and the third hymn of the ninth mandala of Rig-Veda are ascribed to him. The later Rishis, the Kapileya-s and the Babhrava-s are mentioned in the Aitareya Brahmana (7.17) as descendants of Sunahsepa Devarata Vaisvamitra.


9.1. It is said; one cannot truly comprehend a Vedic mantra without a good understanding of its Chhandas, the metrical form. Chhandas is the very basis of the structure and of the import of Vedic hymns (chandah paadau tu vedasya– Paniniya Shiksha – 41). The term Chhandas is a word derived from the root (dhatu) चदि , giving rise to ahlade (आह्लादे, joy or delight).

The term Chanda (Sanskrit: छन्द) , therefore, indicates that which is ‘pleasing, alluring, lovely, delightful or charming’. And, Chhandas is the joy in structuring the syllables and words of the mantra (chhandayati ahlada-dayani chhandas – Amara Kosha 3.20). It also sets the rhythm for chanting of the mantra. Chhandas enlivens and articulates the meaning of the mantra. And, one has to unravel, untie the covering of Chhandas (chandaamsi chhadanaath – Nirukta – 8.3.11) in order to fathom the true intent of the mantra. (11,5: candraś. candateḥ. kānti. karmaṇah / candanam. ity .apy. asya. bhavati)

Since the purity in transmission of the Vedas is highly dependent on the sound or the way they are uttered, Chhandas is very important for their accurate utterance.

The Rig-Veda and Sama-veda mantras are entirely composed of Riks , following certain  Chhandas. But, the Yajur-veda has both prose and verse (shloka) forms of mantras; and, its shlokas are composed in appropriate Chhandas.

Vaidika Chhandas, the meter of the Vedic mantras, is different from Chhandas and meters of poems in classical Sanskrit. Vaidika Chhandas is Akshara pradhana (अक्षरप्रधानम्). Here, the number of letters is significant . But,  in classical Sanskrit, the number of syllables as well as their rhythm and  pitch-quality (Laghu and Guru) are taken into account 

10.1. Gayatri, in fact, is the name of one of the metrical forms (Chhandas) adopted in Rig-Veda. The Gayatri Chhandas is referred to in Rig-Veda (1.12.11) as ‘Gayatra’ or ‘Gayatram’. It is said; that out of 10,552 mantras in Rig-Veda Samhita as many as 2,456 are in Gayatri Chhandas. But, the largest numbers of mantras (4,251) in Rig-Veda are in Trishtup Chhandas. And, the rest (1,346) are in Jagati Chhandas.

10.2. Gayatri Chhandas is associated with Agni (aṣṭākṣarā vai gāyatrī gāyatram agneś-chando – Sp.Br. Agni is the first and the foremost of the Vedic deities without whom no ritual is possible. Trishtup Chhandas is associated with Indra; and, Jagati Chhandas with Visvedeva-s.

10.3. Among the fourteen* types of  Chhandas used in the Vedic texts, Gayatri is the shortest (with twenty-four matras). It is regarded the first (head: atah shirah) and the basic metrical form. And, it is the best. Taittiriya – Aranyaka (10.34) regards Gayatri as the Mother of all the Chhandas (gayatrim chhandasaam mata); born of Brahman (Brahma –yoini); and, as one that signifies Brahman in three letters (tri-akshare Brahma-vaadini). Almost all the Samhitas (excepting Krishna-yajurveda) begin in Gayatri Chhandas.

[* The fourteen types of Chhandas employed in Vedic texts are listed as : Gayatri; Ushnik; Anushtup; Brhati; Pankthi; Trishtup ; Jagati ; Ati- Jagati ; Shaktari ; Ati – Shaktari ; Ashti ; Ati- Ashti ; Dhruthi ; and , Ati – Dhruthi .

Gayatri Chhandas has twenty-four syllables; and, the six other Chhandas that follow thereafter has each four syllables more than it’s preceding one (e.g. Jagati the seventh chhandas has 4×12 = 48 syllables).

Incidentally, the seven horses yoked to Sun-god’s chariot are named: Gayatri, Brhati, Ushnik, Jagati, Trishtup, Anushtup and Pankthi (SB: 5.21.16.)]

Among such fourteen types of Chhandas, the following seven are said to be of importance  in the Vedic texts :


Further,  according to other classifications made in texts dealing with Chhandas (छन्दस्सूत्रम्):  Ashti (अष्टिः – 64), Prakrti (प्रकृतिः – 84), Vikrti (विकृतिः- 92), Abhikrti (अभिकृतिः – 100), Utkrti (उत्कृतिः- 104) are mentioned as a few other Vedic Chhandas. Some other texts dealing with Chhandas, include Rkpratishakhya, Shankhayana Shrauta sutras and Nidana Sutra of Samaveda.  The devotional hymns etc., are usually constructed in other meters; which are mostly different from the Vedic Chhandas 

10.4. As said earlier, Gayatri Chhandas is associated with Agni, the first and the foremost of the Vedic deities. The Rigveda commences with Agni Sukta, composed in Gayatri Chhandas. Because of that, Gayatri Chhandas is invested with great sanctity; and, all the other mantras in this Chhandas are of special significance. The Satapatha Brahmana ( declares the mantra in Gayatri Chhandas is Agni himself (Gayatri va Agnihi; and Agnir vai Gayatri). And, that Agni, indeed, is the face (mouth) of Gayatri (tasya Agni-reva mukham). That is the reason, it is explained, the opening mantras of all the Yajna-s are in Gayatri Chhandas.

The Gayatri Chhandas is adorned with eight letters – Astakshara Gayatri / Gayatri Brahma-varchasam – (Tai.Brh. . The Satapatha Brahmana ( also says – Tato astakhshara Gayatrya bhavat.

It is also said; the line of Gayatri Chhandas having eight letters* in association with Pranava (Aum) as the ninth letter (navakshara vai), by itself forms the first half of the Yajna (purvardha vai yajnasya Gayatri-SB : – navākṣarā vai gāyatryaṣṭau tāni yānyanvāha praṇavo navamaḥ pūrvārdho vai yajñasya gāyatrī

[* Some say; this refers to the eight letters of the subtle and mystical fourth-line (Turiya paada) of Gayatri : paro  (2) , rajas  (2) ,  ya (1), pra– tapa iti (3).]

10.5. The root of the term Gayatri is ‘gai’ (sabde) which denotes the sense of sound or speech or singing. That is the reason, it is said, the rik-s in Gayatri Chhandas lend themselves to singing rather easily (gana-anukula-rik).

A Sukta in Rig Veda (1.10.01) commences with the words ‘gāyanti tvā gāyatriṇo‘. Yaska-charya (Nirukta: 7.12.5)  expands on that and says that rik-s in Gayatri-Chhandas are ideal for singing the praises of deities (gāyatrī.gāyateḥ.stuti. karmaṇas). The rik-s in Sama-Veda are therefore mostly in Gayatra-chhandas.

11.1. As regards the Gayatri mantra, in accordance with the characteristics of the Gayatri Chhandas  (metrical form) in which it is composed,  it is required to be made of twenty-four letters, akshara or matra (Gayatri chaturvimsatyakshara); arranged in three lines (tripaada); each paada having eight letters (ashta-aksharatmaka-paada). And, the mantra is made of nine words.

Please listen to the excellent presentation of the Samhita-pata;Pada-patha; Krama-patha; Jata-patha; and , Ghana-patha of the Gayatri Mantra by Pandit Sri Suresh . Please click here]

11.2. But, the first line of the mantra (tat-sa- vi –tur -vr-re-nyam) has only seven matra-s. The requirement of the chhandas is satisfied in either of two ways: 

One; the Pranava, that is, Om (ॐ) is added at the commencement of the first paada to make it eight-lettered (adi-omkara- sahita astakshara). The Pranava, thus, indeed becomes an integral part of Gayatri-mantra. Then, the first paada would read: ॐ तत्स॑वितुर्वरे॑ण्यम्।

And, the alternate way is to split last matranyam’ into two: ‘ni’ and’ yam’, in order to render the line in eight matra-s.

For similar reasons, the last matra of the third line ‘yat’ is taken to be one matra.

Tri-rupa Gayatri

12.1. Gayatri is at once the name of the mantra, the name of the Chhandas; and is also the name of the Goddess Gayatri Mata. Gayatri is trinity; and is hailed as Tri-rupa Gayatri. Gayatri is most usually explained or interpreted in terms of triads. Gayatri is also hailed tri-akshare Brahma-vaadini, the one who signifies Brahman in three letters.

Gayatri as mantra

13.1. To start with, Taittiriya-Aranyaka (10.35) describes, Gayatri as a mantra structured in three lines (tri-paada). And, a paada (foot), etymologically, is that which moves, activates and enlivens (padyase).

13.2. Each of the three paada-s is identified with a Veda: Rg, Yajus and Sama. Following that, Gayatri is celebrated as the mother of all Vedas – Veda Mata (AV: 19.71.1); and, she is requested to bless  the  devotee with wisdom, material prosperity , proginee,  long life and ultimate liberation.

stutā mayā varadā vedamātā pra codayantāṃ pāvamānī dvijānām |  āyuḥ prāṇaṃ prajāṃ paśuṃ kīrtiṃ draviṇaṃ brahma varcasam |  mahyaṃ dattvā vrajata brahmalokam ||(AVŚ_19,71.1)||

13.3. Further; each paada of the mantra is also identified with each of the three matra-s (syllable) of the Pranava Aum; and with each of the three Vedas. And again, each paada of the mantra is identified with each aspect of Gayatri – Gayatri, Savitri and Sarasvathi.

:- The first paada of the Gayatri mantra is identified with the first matra of Pranava ’ Aa’ (a-kaara) , which in turn is identified with Rig-Veda. The word ‘Savitr’ in the first paada of the mantra (tat Savitr varenyam) is of essence here; and, it signifies creation and inspiration (stute).The first paada of the Gayatri mantra is associated with Savitri who represents dawn.

: – The second paada of the mantra is identified with the second matra of Pranava ‘U’ (u-kaara), which in turn corresponds to Sama-Veda. The verb ‘dhimahi’ in the second paada of the mantra (bhargo devasya dhimahi) is of importance here; and, it signifies precise articulation (gaana-kriya).The second paada of the Gayatri mantra is associated with Gayatri as Vac, clear speech (gai-sabde).

: – The third paada of the mantra is identified with the third matra of Pranava ‘M’ (ma-kaara), which in turn is identified with Yajur-veda. The key word here is ‘dhiyah’ in the third paada of the mantra (dhi yo nah prachodayat) signifying ritual-actions (karma). The third paada of the Gayatri mantra is associated with Sarasvathi (uninterrupted rituals).

There also other interpretations.

14.1. The Shandilya Upanishad (1. 17) identifies the first matra of Pranava with Gayatri; the second matra with Savitri; and the third with Sarasvathi.

prāṇāpānasamāyogaḥ prāṇāyāmo bhavati ।
recakapūrakakumbhakabhedena sa trividhaḥ ।
te varṇātmakāḥ । tasmātpraṇava eva prāṇāyāmaḥ
padmādyāsanasthaḥ pumānnāsāgre
śaśabhṛdbimbajyotsnājālavitānitākāramūrtī raktāṅgī
haṃsavāhinī daṇḍahastā bālā gāyatrī bhavati । ukāramūrtiḥ
śvetāṅgī tārkṣyavāhinī yuvatī cakrahastā sāvitrī bhavati
makāramūrtiḥ kṛṣṇāṅgī vṛṣabhavāhinī vṛddhā
triśūladhāriṇī sarasvatī bhavati

14.2. Gayatri is revered as the very foundation (adhistana) of all beings and objects. Gayatri represents earth (prithvi), as all existence is established on earth. The prithvi, in turn, stands for human body on which are settled all the vital-currents (sarve-pranah) and sense- functions (indriya kriya).

In these traditional texts, when human body is referred to as the foundation (aadhara), it is the heart (hrudaya), the very core of the being, that is actually meant. For, all the vital currents (hrudi praane) and sense-functions are established (prathistitha) in the heart. Gayatri, therefore, represents the heart-lotus (hrudaya pundarika), the life-centre of all existence. (Ch.Up.3.12.3)

14.3. The Chandogya Upanishad (3.12.1) says that Gayatri signifies all beings: past, present and future. It is vac, representing the vital currents (prana); it is vac (speech) in the sense of mantra (gaayati) the recitation of  which protects one who recites (traayate) ; it is vac representing all the elements – (Vac va Gayatri; vac va idam sarva-bhutam , Gaayati cha, traayate cha); and,   it is as vac Gayatri is all pervasive (Gayatri vac vai gayatriti) .

gāyatrī vā idaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ yad idam kiñca | vāg vai gāyatrī |vāg vā idaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ gāyati ca trāyate ca || ChUp_3,12.1 ||

14.4. Yaska-charya mentions that mantras have three layers of meaning (traye artha).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. Accordingly, Gayatri mantra too is interpreted, with special reference to its Devata Savitr, in terms of: Adhi-YajnaAdhi-Daivata; and, Adhyatma. (We shall come to this a little later).

15.1. Ultimately, apart from the conditioned aspects of knowledge, vital current etc there is an un-conditioned, absolute aspect to the mantra; and, hence is called a-pada. Gayatri is not mere aggregate of letters; Brahman is its essence. And, this is Savitr in its true nature, un-conditioned and beyond relative existence. Savitr has to be realized in the space within (antar-akasha), in the depths of one’s heart-lotus (daharam pundarikam).

Gayatri as Devata

16.1. Gayatri – the mantra and the Chhandas – are personified as the Goddess. The Mother as nirguna is the form-less vachya-shakthi; and as saguna, she is the presiding deity of the Gayatri mantra. The mantra itself is Devatha. The worshipper awakens and enlivens the potent Goddess residing in his heart-cave, by her/his devotion and earnestness.

[According to some, it was the Tantra ideology that turned a mantra dedicated to the solar deity Savitar into a meditation on the Mother Goddess. It also brought in mystic syllables known as Vyahritis which are similar to the Bija-aksharas of Tantric meditation. It’s Dhyana-slokas portrayed Gayatri as a goddess with symbolic iconographic features. The repetition (japa) of Gayatri mantra is preceded by purification rituals of Tantric nature, such as achamanapranayama etc.

In turn, the Vedic tradition too accepted and revered the personified form of Savitri mantra; as Mother Goddess (asya maata Savitri: Manu.2.170) – Gayantam trayate. And, Chandogya Upanishad (3.12) glorified Gayatri as being that which exists right here, that which sings (gayati) and saves (trayati) all things in their Reality – vāg vā idaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ gāyati ca trāyate ca || ChUp_3,12.1 ||.  ]

16.2. In the composite Dhyana-sloka submitted to Gayatri, the mantra and the goddess unite. The hymn addressed to Gayatri (Gayatryah), she is celebrated both as the mantra and as also the goddess.

:- As mantra, Gayatri (Gayatryah) is described as being in the form of Gayatri chhandas (Gayatri-Chhandah), having Viswamitra as Rishi (Vishwamitra Rishih) and Savitr  as Devata (Savitaa Devata). Gayatri is composed of three lines (Tripadaa), having twenty-four syllables (Chaturvimsaty-aksharaa.  Her mantra is of six kinds (Shatkukshih) embodying the principles of : Vak (speech) ; bhuta (beings) ;  prithvi (earth); sarira (body) ; hrudaya (heart) ; and, prana (vital currents).

: – As Goddess , the fair and bright (swetha varnaGayatri descends from the Gotra of Rishi Samkhyayana (saamkhyaayana sa gotra). She is endowed with five heads (Panchaseersh) .  She represents the five vital currents (Praana, Apana, Vyana, Udana and Samaana). Agni glows in her face (Agnirmukham), Brahma is in her head (Brahma Shiro), Vishnu resides in her heart (Vishnur hridayam)Rudra is her tuft (Radrah Sikhaah ) and the earth is her generator (Prithivi Yonih)She presides over   Upanayana  (upanayaney viniyogah ).

[Gayatryah Gayatree Chhandah Vishwamitra Rishih, Savitaa Devataa, Agnirmukham, Brahma Shiro,Vishnur hridayam, Radrah Sikhaah, Prithivi Yonih, Praanaa paana vyaanodaana samaanaa sa praanaa sweta varnaa saamkhyaayana sa gotra Gayatree Chaturvimsatyaksharaa Tripadaa Shatkukshih, Panchaseershopanayaney viniyoga ]


17.1. Gayatri as Devata, the Goddess , is hailed as Tri-rupa –Gayatri, also because she combines in herself the three goddesses : Gayatri, Savitri and Sarasvathi. Gayatri is the protector of life principles; Savitri of Satya (Truth and integrity of all Life); and, Sarasvathi of the wisdom and virtues of life.

17.2. Gayatri is associated with three ‘savana-s’ (morning, midday and evening). She is said to manifest in three forms as : Gayatri in the morning (pratah-savana); Savitri in the midday (madyanha savana);  and , as Sarasvathi in the evening (saayam savana) – [Aitareya Brahmana-13.25].


pūrvāhṇakālikā sandhyā, kumārī, raktavarṇā, rakta-gandha-mālyānu-lepinī, pāśā-aṅkuśā-akṣa-mālā kamaṇḍalu-varahastā, haṃsārūḍhā, brahma-daivatyā, ṛgveda-sahitā, āditya-patha-gāminī, bhūmaṇḍala-vāsinī |


madhyāhṇakālikā sandhyā, yuvatī, śvetavarṇā, śveta-gandha-mālyānu-lepinī, triśūla-ḍamaru-hastā, vṛṣabhā-rūḍhā, rudra-daivatyā, yajurveda-sahitā, āditya-patha-gāminī, bhuvoloke vyavasthitā |


sāyaṃsandhyā, vṛddhā, kṛṣṇāṅgī, kṛṣṇa-gandha-mālyānu-lepinī, śaṅkha-cakra-gadā-bhayahastā, garuḍā-rūḍhā, viṣṇu-daivatyā, sāmaveda-sahitā, āditya-pathagāminī, svarga-loka-vyavasthitā ||

But, it is also said; Gayatri herself represents all three savana-s (Gayatri vai sarvani savanani).

17.3. She is Trinity herself.  As Gayatri in the morning she is Bramha svarupini; as Savitri in the mid-day she is Rudra svarupini; and as Sarasvathi in the evening she is Vishnu svarupini.

17.4. Mahanirvana Tantra regards the Matrka–Trinity of Brahmi, Vaishnavi and Maheshwari as three aspects of Goddess Gayatri. She is Brahmi in the morning; Vaishnavi in the midday; and, Maheshwari in the evening.

17.5. Goddess Gayatri is revered as the sum or the aggregate (samasti svarupini) of all that is divine (Sarvadevata Svarupini; Sarvamantra Svarupini) – Gayatri vai idam sarvam.

The Devata

rathasaptami _c

18.1. The Gayatri mantra is addressed to Savitr; and, he is the Devata of the mantra. The Rig-Vedic god Savitr is understood and interpreted in varieties of ways. These explanations and interpretations are spread over a wide spectrum; ranging over the ritualistic, philosophical and esoteric understanding of the term Savitr.

: – Savitr is an ancient Vedic deity. He is an independent god in his own right. But, Savitr is sometimes taken as Surya; also, at times, not as Surya. At one level, Savitr is conceived as the power to dispel darkness. Savitr, here, is the aspect of Sun before daylight; and, after daybreak he is Surya*.Savitr, in this sense, is the one who inspires or gives rise to Sun. Savitr is also the motive power, the symbol of light that invokes radiance in hearts of beings. He is the awakening that impels men and creature to action. His mantra says: “We contemplate on the adorable brilliance of god Savitr, may he inspire our intellect”.

 [*The scholars tend to view Savitr more as a splendid concept than as a natural phenomenon.]

: – At other places in the Samhitas, Savitr is variously identified with Agni, Soma, Prajapathi, Visvedeva and Surya; or with their aspects. At another level, Savitr is identified with one’s mind, consciousness and with one’s own self (antaryamin).   Savitr, here, is the inner-light that illumines, enlivens, prompts and inspires (su-preraka) all our thoughts, speech and deeds.

: – Savitr the luminous one (divyati prakashata iti) is also the Purusha who resides in the heart –lotus of the devotees (hrudayaravinde); and is perceived in meditation (dyatatvat).

: – And again, Savitr residing in the solar orb is the symbol of Brahman (asaavaadityo Brahma).

It is said; for a beginner, Savitr might appear a functional deity; but to the seer, Savitr is a representation of Paramatman free from attributes. Following that, the first syllable of the mantra ‘tat’ could be taken either as a  neuter pronoun meaning ‘that’, or understood in silence  as ‘that One’ the Supreme principal Brahman.

: – Ultimately, it is said, Savitr is verily the Absolute Parabrahman.

Let’s look at some of these aspects.

Savitr as Vedic god

19.1. Savitr is an ancient (Asura) Vedic god of the upper regions (dyu-sthana). He is celebrated in eleven entire Suktas and in many separate stanzas as well. Everything about him is beautiful and brilliant.

He is pictured, pre-eminently, as a golden deity adorned with golden-eyes; golden – arms and golden-hands; and having a golden-tongue. His chariot and its shaft, made of gold (ratham hiranya pra-ugam vahantah –RV: 1.35.4-5), are drawn by two or more brown, white-footed horses adorned with pearls (krsnavant).

The yellow-haired (haridra kesi) Savitr rises up from the east, following the emergence of Ushas the goddess of dawn; and illumines the sky. He moves across the sky seated in his bright golden chariot (shubrabhyam yajato haribhyam), filling all directions with his boundless golden lustre (hiranyim amitam) seeing all creatures, dispelling darkness and sorrows.

He rises aloft his strong golden arms extending to ends of earth (hiranya divo antha anustam: RV: 7.45.2) and blesses all beings (sakala shreyamsi dhatrunam). The other gods follow him.

19.2. His countenance of golden splendor is pleasing; and his speech is clear and sweet. On his ancient path, he protects his worshippers; and conveys the departed ancestors (pitris) to where the righteous dwell. Savitr governs the cosmic order Rta. And, all the elements and gods are subject to his law.

19.3. He protects the universe (vishvam bhuvanam dharayistathi: RV: 4.54.4).Prayers are submitted to this glowing, venerable god to inspire, to stimulate and to illumine ones heart and mind (RV: 3.62.10).

Savitr according to Yaska-charya

20.1. Yaska-charya, the great grammarian and etymologist of very ancient India, 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). Savitr as the Devata of the mid-region, settled beyond interference (aturte), establishes (sthiram akarat) the earth (prihvim) firmly, easily and happily. He is associated with the clouds, the rains, the earth and the mind; and, he holds afloat the sky (akashbhane) without visible support (aalambanam tad-rahite).

20.2. The earth fully established by Savitr (RV: 10.149.1) symbolizes matter. And, the heaven which he holds afloat, without any support, is the consciousness. And, between the two is the mid-region where Savitr has settled Soma (aturte baddham Savita). Soma, here, symbolizes the alert mind which is guided by Savitr along the right path (Savitr is therefore called ‘Sunita’, ‘sushtu neta’). Savitr, in association with Soma is variously described as ‘Asura’ the giver of life (prana-daata), Vi-suparna (possessed of splendid forms).

20.3. Savitr in the upper-realms (dyus-sthana), symbolized by solar orb, is the Devata par excellence. He illumines the earth as well as the atmosphere and the highest realms (nrchaksha yeva devo madhya aastha aa prapivaan rodhasi anthariksham – RV: 10.130.2). He is the very soul of all that moves and all that stays in the world. He is the sight of the human beings who can see (nrchaksha), abiding in the midst of the heart-space (hrudayakasha).

20.4. Yaska-charya (Nirukta: 10.33) cites a mantra from Rig-Veda comparing Savitr with another Vedic god Tvashtr.


The Rishi of this mantra is Prajapathi, described as the son of Visvamitra. The skilful Tvashtr provides form to objects (Tvashta rupani pimsatu: 10.184); and   projects the earth and sky alike, just as Savitr does (RV: 10.110.9).

ya ime dyāvāpṛthivī janitrī rūpair apiṃśad bhuvanāni viśvā | tam adya hotar iṣito yajīyān devaṃ tvaṣṭāram iha yakṣi vidvān

21.1. As a solar god Savitr is related to Truth and to the cosmic order Rta. In that context, Yaska-charya, again, explains the term Savitr as the progenitor, the one who gives birth to all things (Savitr sarvasya prasavita: Nirukta– 10.3). Savitr is hailed as the most real (satya), the source of all order and the true-principles (satya-dharma) that govern all existence.  

And, in that sense, Savitr is one with Varuna who represents Satya the Absolute Truth; and, Rta the cosmic order conditioned by space, time and circumstances.

Satya is the Truth of Being: and, Rta is the truth of becoming. Savitr Devata is related to both. It is also said; Savitr is Satya, for it is the essence of all things – living and nonliving; with form and without form.  The humans must follow the course of Savitr (satya) and accomplish their tasks (devasya Savithuhu karma kurvanthu manavaha – AV: 6.23.3)

22.1. Yaska-charya calls Savitr as Kavi; as the one who knows all the past, present and future. He is the seer of the beyond, the omniscient. He is the one who draws out sublime thoughts from the womb of mystery; and brings them to light for the benefit of all. Savitr is the most adorable – ‘varenyam’. He inspires all  (Savita sarvasya preraka) to move upwards towards the heavens viz. the higher reaches of consciousness.

22.2. According to Yaska-charya, Savitr is the inner-light, the inner controller (antaryamin). He releases (prasuta) actions from their un-manifest states. And, prompts (su-preraka), inspires and guides all to engage in good thoughts and right actions; and to tread on the right path.

Savitr and Agni

23.1. Savitr, the solar deity is at times identified with Surya as also with Agni who is a Devata of Prithvi-sthana, the earth – region (agnir jyotih, jyotis surya svaaha). Savitr also is Apam-napath, the child of waters; the favourite epithet of Agni.

23.2. When Savitr is associated with Agni, he is described as the ascending flames of Agni (urdhvam keturn). Savitr as Agni is the purifier of all things (pavaka) ; as also of the minds and hearts of humans. Along with Agni, Savitr   becomes a part of the Yajna. Savitr is invoked at the commencement of the Yajna with prayers for the successful completion of a Yajna (Savitr yajnam pranayeti).

23.3. In the context of Yajna, Savitr is also conceived as the visible representation of the year of twelve months (kapala) – (dwadasa –kapalah savitro bhavati; dwadasa vai masah samvathsarasya). The presence of Savitr is symbolized by a circle drawn in the yajna-vedi; and it is surrounded by an altar made of fifteen bricks (ishtaka) symbolizing fifteen days of the first half of the month (purva-paksha); or of the latter half of the month (apara-paksha) .

23.4. At another level, during the Yajna, Savitr becomes the inner-being (antaryamin) and the inspirer (preraka) that dwells in the heart of the performing priest (adhvaryu).


Savitr and Soma

24.1. Savitr the Devata of Gayatri mantra is closely associated with Soma. In every Sukta addressed to Savitr there are mantras which praise Soma. 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). Soma is requested to prolong our lives (ayur-vardaya)   by driving away threats and dangers.

25.1. Soma in the Vedic context has many references: as plant (adh-bhautika), the drink (adhi-yajna), the moon (adhi-daivata) and the mind (adhyatma). Its esoteric meaning is taken as that which provides reality or substance to the un-manifest (satyvataraya agnau suyate tasmat-somah).  Soma as the gentle devoured substance is the partner of Agni the fiery devouring spirit (annada). Soma the substance of the universe is ‘food (anna)’.  Food is the principle of all, for, truly, the beings are born from food, when born they live by food; and when they are dead they themselves become food “(Taittereya Upanishad 3.2)

25.2. Just as with Savitr, Soma is closely associated with Surya too. Soma is often described as bright (aruna bhabru), fascinating (sona) and luminous (hari); and he shines along with the sun (Soma Suryena rochate -RV : 9.2.6). If Surya is the eye of the gods (asau vaa aditya devaanam chakshasu), Soma is the eye of the manes,  pitris (Chandrama vai pitrnam chakshuh). If Surya is the symbol of eyes (chaksho Surya) , Soma is the symbol of mind (Chandrama manaso).

Thus, if one is the sight, the other is the insight.

25.3. Following that, Soma is symbolized as the parent of all mind-process (pita matinaam), the leader of thoughts (neta matinaam) , the protector of wisdom (patir dhiyah) and the master of mind (manasas patih). He is the true (dhira)   knower of all things ( manishi, medhira , vipra) here and beyond (visvavid), hidden (kratu-vid) and revealed (kavi kratu). The secrets of all the senses are laid bare by the shining Soma (devo devaanam guhyani nama-avishkrnoti –RV: 9.95.2). He is the lord of all speech (somo raja vaksah). He is the Lord of the Yajna ; and one who assigns to each Deva his share in the Yajna  (bhagam devabhyo vidadhatyayan ).

25.4. Soma is called here Samudra meaning not only vast but also ever – active mind, the mind which operates creatively and ceaselessly. He is projected in the image of a powerful, unruly and impetus horse (asvam ivadhukshat dhunim).

25.5. In all these references, Soma represents the evolved, well ordered, efficient and far-reaching mind (daksho devanaam asi –RV: 9.85.2) ; the mind that helps us to reach Savitr. Soma is presented as the very soul of sense-function (atmendriyasya bhavasi dhasir uttamah). He is the true source of inspiration to reach Savitr.

26.1. Incidentally, 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 Rishi of this mantra is Archan, the son of Hiranya-stupa who in turn was the son of the most celebrated Rishi Angirasa. Because of his devotion to Savitr,  Archan earned the epithet of Savitarchan.

26.2. Both the father and the son in their hymns addressed to Savitr also praise  Soma – pavamana, the purifier. Hiranya-stupa (father of Archan) adores Soma variously as light (jtothi), bliss (svar), strength or ability (daksha), wisdom (kratu) and protection (uti) – (RV: 9.4.1-3).   Hiranya-stupa prays to Soma to lead him to Savitr or Surya (tvam Surye na aa bhaje – RV: 9.4.5).

26.3. As regards the son Archan; he describes Soma as ‘the other principle’ (anyad abhavat) which came into being after (paschath) Savitr. In his adoration of Savitr (Somasyevamsum prati- jagaraham), Archan invokes the lustrous (amsu) Soma, the one who bestows the wealth of the earth as also that of the heaven (dvi-barhasam rayim).And , prays to Soma to lead him to Savitr.

26.4. Following the family tradition, Archan’s son Syavasva Archanasa also composed hymns devoted to Savitr. His rik appearing in the fifth mandala of Rig-Veda Samhita (5.82.1) gained fame as ‘the other Savitri’ (ity uktatvat savitram).

[Please see Note to paragraph 5.4 above]

Savitr and Surya

27.1. Savitr just as the other Devatha-s of the upper realm (dyus sthana) is a solar deity; he was one of the Adityas. Their several aspects and functions are described variedly as: Pushan the one who nourishes ; Vishnu the one who pervades ; Keshi the one who provides light (pra-kasam) ; Vaisvanara the one who assumes varied forms ; and, Vrshakapi the one becomes red and ascends the sky like a bull.  The Vedic mantras adore the Devatha-s of the upper realm (dyus sthana) by these and other names; for, they all, in essence, are of solar-spirit.

27.2. Savitr, as a solar deity, dispels darkness and makes way for dawn, illumining the entire world. In other words, Savitr is the one that brings forth Surya who causes the day.

27.3. Savitr, here, is conceived as an aspect of Sun before daylight (udayat purvabhavi); and, after daybreak the Sun is called Surya (Surya iti). Thus, Surya is the later form of Savitr. Some say, Savitr is Surya when present below the horizon, but not quite visible.  Savitr is also called Bhaga (Savita Bhagaha: RV 5.82.3)  in a sense of the ‘early (proto)’ Surya.

27.4. Savitr, thus, comes after night (tamas) and before light (jyothi):  (tamasya kirna rashmir bhavathi). It is also said; the night comes at his command sending all beings to rest. Savitr is the bridge between night and light. Night is un-manifest; and light is manifest. Savitr in this sense is both un-manifest (A-vyakta) and manifest (Vyatka).

28.1. Sri Sayana-charya also describes Savitr as the deity who presides during the time between dawn and the emergence of Sun*. Savitr is the emerging rays of light (urdhva bhanum savita devo asred). Savitr, here, is visualized as the power to dispel darkness and enliven all existence (Brhad –devata: 2.61-62).

28.2. Sri Sayana, therefore, regards Savitr as the inspiration, the illumining power of Surya. He expands: “the all-knowing Aditya (Surya), 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”.

[*Sri Aurobindo interprets night as ignorance. And, once the senses are controlled and the mind is stabilized, Ushas the dawn of consciousness arises. Following her, comes Savitr the awakening, the grace and the inspiration to seek Satya, the Truth, personified by the Surya. “His coming is the advent of God’s hour, awakes the asleep and ennobles the vilest things”.]

28.3. Sri Sayana explains that the expressions Surya and Savitr imply the power to protect, to inspires and flash forth (pra-sauti). He also says Savita is that which enlivens and inspires all beings (Savita sarvasya prerako devah). And, Savitr, like Surya, pervades spreads and holds together different thingsSavitr just as Surya represents light, energy, inspiration, intellect and consciousness.

28.4. Svetasvatara Upanishad (2.7) describes Savitr as a Deva, a luminous god, who shines in the sky with dazzling brilliance (divyati prakashata iti). He is adored by all the gods (sthuyate sarva-devathaihi). The Deva illumines the world and makes all life possible. It is Savitr alone (ekah) that has the power to propel, inspire and flash forth.

29.1. Savitr, here, is the radiance that illumines and enlivens all existence. He provides the inspiration and the impetus to life. He resides in the heart-lotus of the devotees (hrudayaravinde); he is to be meditated upon (upasate); and perceived in meditation (dyatatvat).

29.2. Savitr is truly one’s own self, vivifying the body, the sense-functions and the mind, providing wealth for the total welfare. He lightens up all our thoughts, our resolves and our aspirations.

Savitr and Purusha

30.1. It is said; Savitr is Purusha. The Purusha Sukta of Rig-Veda (10.90.2) describes with awe and wonder the majesty of Purusha. It says; all that exists as the world we know (sarva bhutani) is only one-fourth of the Purusha; and three – fourths of him are in the upper realms beyond our perception (tri paadasyam amrutam divi).

30.2. The Gayatri mantra is said to be four-footed (chatuspaada) when Pranava (Om) accompanies it. However, when Pranava is omitted it is only three-footed (Chatuspaada Gayatri pranavena saha; pranavam vina tripaada). It is said; the fourth paada (turiya paada) is hidden or un-manifest. It represents the Purusha abiding in the solar orb (Surya mandala-antargata-purusha),  beyond intellect.

30.3. It is said; the Turiya paada is the unconditioned and the most subtle aspect of the mantra.  And, it And hence, it is named A-paada. This is Savitr in its true nature – un-conditioned by aught and beyond relative existence. It is most worthy of worship (varenyam) and contemplation (dhyayema).

The Turiya paada is said to represent Purusha ; for . it completes to perfection  the three Padas of the Gayatri (Purushah sarva purnath). The Turiya Pada resides in the heart of the devotee , without explicitly revealing itself (puri sayanat).

31.1. Savitr or Purusha is cosmic in nature. He fills and enlivens the entire universe; yet, he also dwells hidden in heart-cave of each being as its essence (guru guha), consciousness and strength. He is the antaryamin, the very life of life. Savitr resides in the heart-lotus (hrudaya-aravinda) of the devotee; and there he becomes visible. Hence Savitr is called ‘darsata’, that which is seen. The essentials of our existence are all settled in Savitr, like the spokes of the wheel in its hub.

31.2. This Savitr or Purusha is verily the Brahman (jagat prerakasys Brahma- rupasya Savituh), the supreme consciousness, beyond the three gunas (paro rajasa) and illuminating the three worlds (tapati), ruling over them (adipathya bhavena).

savitrā prasavena juṣeta brahma pūrvyam / tatra yoniṃ kṛṇavase nahi te pūrtam akṣipat // SvetUp_2.7 //

Let’s talk about the components of the Mantra and its import in the next part.

Gayatri scan0001



Posted by on October 7, 2012 in Devi, Gayatri


Tags: , , , , ,