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I've heard that the Gayatri mantra is actually used to worship the sun, and that the mantra was titled "Gayatri mantra" because the mantra is formed using Gayatri meter (a Vedic meter).

Is that true?

6 Answers 6

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Gayathri is not a mantra. There are classes of mantra called Gayathri which follow a particular meter called Gayathri.

The most popular Gayathri mantra ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।। happens to be one among the many.

Gayathri Chandus is a format of 24 meters, any mantra set to this chandus is called a Gayathri (and there are many gayathries). The one today understood as Gayathri mantra , is Savithri Mantra (because of the deity Savitr) set in Gayathri Chundas . The Rishi for this mantra is Vishvamithra.

This mantra is specifically meant for Thapas (तपस; the highest of Tantras) as it increases the heat in the body burning up all muck at the physical level.

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    "ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व:" is technically not part of the Gayatri: the rest of it already covers the 8x3 = 24 syllables: [तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं (8 under Vedic counting with accents I guess...)] [भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि (8)] [धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् (8)] May 3, 2015 at 20:38
  • @ShreevatsaR Some say that it should be váreṇiyam instead of vareṇyaṃ. I've asked a question here, you might want to check it out.
    – MathGod
    Mar 31, 2017 at 21:48
  • 'This mantra is specifically meant for Thapas (तपस; the highest of Tantras) as it increases the heat in the body burning up all muck at the physical level'--never heard.whats the scriptural basis?
    – user17294
    Apr 7, 2019 at 12:46
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First you need to know what is translation of Gayatri mantra

ॐ भूर्भुव: स्व: तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं । भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि, धीयो यो न: प्रचोदयात् ।।

Oh God, the Protector, the basis of all life, Who is self-existent, Who is free from all pains and Whose contact frees the soul from all troubles, Who pervades the Universe and sustains all, the Creator and Energizer of the whole Universe, the Giver of happiness, Who is worthy of acceptance, the most excellent, Who is Pure and the Purifier of all, let us embrace that very God, so that He may direct our mental faculties in the right direction. ( Source:eaglespace.com)

Here is no explicit mention of any god (THIS IS WRONG TAT SAVITUR REFERS TO SAVITAR THE SUN GOD), it refers to supreme god. And as per few believes Surya is also considered as supreme god.

Few translation also accounts it as for a female god too, Durga sometimes. But its like interpenetrating this mantra as per personal believes.

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    That's a very loose translation. Jun 25, 2014 at 7:00
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    @KeshavSrinivasan there are various translation i have read in books, all looks loose traslation to me. And all translation done are depend on who is doing it, Vishishtadvaita, sauram or other believers. Jun 25, 2014 at 7:05
  • Almost the entire translation seems without any basis!!!!!
    – user17294
    Apr 7, 2019 at 12:49
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The Gayatri mantra is in Rig Veda.

The Gayatri mantra is the most sacred Rigvedic mantra. The Gayatri mantra praises the sun in the form of Lord Brahma in the morning, as Lord Vishnu at noon, and as Lord Shiva in the evening.

Facing east, a devotee repeats this mantra a number of times (usually a fixed number). This mantra is imparted to a young boy at his Yagnopaveet (Upanayana) for initiation into the religious and spiritual order of the Vedas:

Om bhoor bhuvah svah; tat savitur varaynyam; bhargo dayvasya dheemahi; dhiyo yo nah prachoda-yat; Om. (Rig Veda 3.62.10 and Yajur Veda 36.3)

Om (God), bhooh or bhoor (earth, the giver of life), bhuvah (atmosphere, the dispeller of miseries), svah (wealth, the bestower of happiness), tat (that), savitur (creator), varanyam (most worthy, acceptable, and desirable), bhargah or bhargo (personification of knowledge), dayvasya (of divine), dheemahi (meditate), dhiyah or dhiyo (minds, intellects), yah or yo (one who), nah (our), prachoda-yat (inspire, lead).

English Translation of the Gayatri Mantra:

God is the giver of life, the dispeller of miseries, and the bestower of happiness. Let us meditate upon that Creator, the most worthy and acceptable Almighty God. May He inspire and lead our minds and intellects.

REF: The Hindu Mind by Bansi Pandit

Recently I came across this discussion of the Gayatri Mantra in Agni Purana. It might be useful for the reader.

On Gayatri mantra

Said the God of fire: Thus, having performed the rite of his daily Sandhya, a Brahmana should recite the Gayatri mantra running as “Om Bhurbhuvah Svaha, Tat Saviturvarenyam Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi, Dhiyo yo nah Pracodayat Om.” This mantra is called the Gayatri (lit. an emancipating song) from the fact of it’s delivering the singers and their wives from the cycles of rebirths. Since its essence serves to illumine the sun (Savita) and forms the fountain source of all light in the universe, it is also known as the Savitri mantra. Since it first came as a word out of the mouth of the four-faced deity, it is also called the Sarasvati. The word “Bharga” occurring in the middle of the mantra represents the supreme light, the essence of the Parabrahma, from the root Bha to shine and Bhrasja to cook or ripen, in which sense it has been used many times in the Chandas (Vedas). The word refers to that essence of the god which causes the cereals to ripen in the harvest time and dispels the gloom of night which enveloped the universe before the dawn of creation. The light-essence of the Supreme Being is the mightiest of all lights and this self of the universal Spirit is the most adored (Varenyam) of all existences. In the alternative it may mean that the divine self of the Absolute should be worshipped with a view to ensure a heavenly existence. And since the root Vr of the term Varenyam may also mean ‘to cover’, it necessarily signifies, as used in the text, an existence which enveloped or lies beyond the states of waking, sleeping and dreaming and hence a Being who is changeless, eternal and absolutely pure the universal God, the Absolute Purity, the Perfect Knowledge, the Infinite Reality.

For the emancipation of my soul, I meditate upon the divine self of that light which is the god Vishnu, the origin of the universe. Some there are who read “Siva”, “Sakti”, “Agni” (such as the Agnihotra) in the place of “light” in the text of the mantras. And since the term Vishnu has been described in the Vedas and the other holy scriptures as synonymous with the sun, the fire and the Rudra, it makes no essential difference, whichever of these epithets has been used. The divine self of the god, manifest as the sun or Vishnu, produces the libations of clarified butter and it is the self of the same god manifest as the light, Parjanya (the god of rain), Vayu (the wind), Aditya (the sun) grows and nourishes the cereals and vegetables by giving rise to heat and moisture. Libations of clarified butter cast into the fire are carried to the sun who creates the rain-clouds. Rain causes the stalks of food grains (Annam) to shoot out and man is the offspring of food (Annam).

The word “Dhimahi” in the text may be also derived from the root “Dha” to hold and accordingly the mantra may be interpreted to mean may we make a full comprehension of the god who is the creator of the seven regions known as the Bhuh, Bhuvas, etc. The word Nah is the possessive plural form of the personal form of the personal pronoun “I” and the word “Bharga” means divinity or divine essence and hence the latter part of the mantra (Bhargo Devasya … Pracodayat) means: “May that essence of the god Vishnu manifest as the sun or the fire-god, leads the minds of us (all created beings) to dwell on his divine self in all acts and undertakings and at all times. Led by the god, the soul of a man goes to heaven or falls into the pit of this material universe which is nothing but the cavity of the mouth of Hari. A Brahmana should hold himself identical with the god who sports on the field of paradise. A yogi bent on working out the salvation of his soul, shall behold the essence of the universal spirit reflected in the disc of the sun, at the sight of which he would break the chain of births and deaths and get rid of the three sorts of pain a man is usually heir to and recite the following mantra: “You are the eternal Brahma, the infinite spiritual light, O you who shine in the disc of the sun. I am identical with you, O you the divinity of Visnu! The status of waking, sleep or dreaming do not constitute myself. I am beyond these. I am a disembodied spirit filling the universal space and running through all sorts of life up to the Supreme Brahma. I deem myself one with the absolute spirit, the Aditya Purusa. I am the infinite and eternal “om”, whence flows out all knowledge and good deeds.

Agni Purana 216.1-18

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  • Om cannot be translated to God. Closest translation is 'primordial sound'. Also when translated into English unfortunately some meaning which can only be expressed in Sanskrit are lost. Actually God is not mentioned in the mantra.
    – Bharat
    Jun 25, 2014 at 16:42
  • The Upanishads repeatedly equate Om as Brahman. For example, Prasna Upanishad v.2 says, " O Satyakama, the syllable AUM is the Supreme Brahman and also the other Brahman. Therefore he who knows it attains, with its support, the one or the other". Jun 26, 2014 at 14:15
  • Have u heard of the saptavyAhriti? These are seven lokas.Bhur bhubah svah are three lokas.These meanings seem constructed
    – user17294
    Apr 7, 2019 at 12:52
  • It would be useful if the source for "The Gayatri mantra praises the sun in the form of Lord Brahma in the morning, as Lord Vishnu at noon, and as Lord Shiva in the evening." is cited. Can you provide link /page to The Hindu Mind by Bansi Pandit?
    – Pandya
    Jan 5 at 16:27
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Actually there is no explicit Goddess named Gayatri. Gayatri means "which protects one who chants it". The mantra is so powerful such that the mantra itself is worshipped as a Goddess.

Through Gayatri, we worship the almighty (Vishnu or Shiva) by comparing it to the brightness of Sun.

Source: books

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    "Source: books" is a little bit vague. Could you be more specific?
    – senshin
    Jun 25, 2014 at 23:46
  • Brahma has a wife name gayatri in pushkar story. Jun 26, 2014 at 6:55
  • Not entirely correct. Gayatri (aka savitri) is one of the 5 main manifestations of the great goddess, according to devi bhagavatam.
    – user1195
    Dec 16, 2015 at 15:08
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Indian philosophy and myth is a very complex subject. Gayatri mantra may refer to sun, however, sun is nothing but ENERGY! According to Shaivat belief Siva is non expressed universe represented in a symbol of a BINDU and his other half Sakti is the expressed universe. Thus, sun is nothing but Sakti or energy. Hence, its worship in the form of a Gayatri mantra is in essence a prayer of goddess. Ref Madhu Khanna or Shiva Sutras By V. Rav Idea presented is my synthesis.

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    Welcome to Hinduism SE! You need to provide references for your answers here so you might want to modify it accordingly else it might get turned into a comment by the moderators. Feb 20, 2018 at 8:49
  • Shiva is not a bindu. Feb 20, 2018 at 11:20
  • Manoj, check book(s) like Yantra by Madhu Khanna or Shiva Sutras By V. Ravi...p70. Time to wake up!
    – Jay Thakar
    Feb 21, 2018 at 20:30
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Gayatri Mantra is credited to sage Vishwamitra. He derived Gayatri mantra from the following verse of Rig Veda which is a prayer to the Sun god (Savitar).

"tat saviturvareṇyaṃ bhargho devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt " (RV 3:62:10) "May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the God: So May he stimulate our prayers".

When this mantra is prefixed with "vyahrtis (bhur bhuvah svah)", it becomes the Savitri mantra (Full Gayatri mantra) as follows where Sun god Savitar is personified as the supreme creator of the universe.

"Om bhur bhuvah svah tat saviturvareṇyaṃ bhargho devasya dhīmahi dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt " "May we attain that excellent glory of Savitar the God who has produced this universe. So May he stimulate our prayers".

But actually Gayatri Mantra is a sandhya vandhanam it is used for worshiping Lord RRudraonly in advaita form

Rudra is the three Sandhya times

“Namaste astu bhagavanh vishveshvaraya mahadevaya tryambakaya tripurantakaya trikagni kalaya |” (Yajurveda Sri Rudram – Anuvaka -1) “Let my salutations be to that great God who is the Lord of the universe; the great God who has three eyes and who destroys Tripura, the three Asura cities. To that God who is the three Sandhya times when the three sacred fires are lit”.

As for Aditya.:

Sun is none other than Bhagawan Rudra as evident from the hymns of Sri Rudram.

“Asau yastamro aruna uta babhruh sumangalah | Ye chemarudra abhito dixu Shritah sahasrashoavaishhaheda imahe |” (Yajurveda Sri Rudram – Anuvaka -1) “This Sun who is copper-red when he arises, then golden-yellow, this highly auspicious and beneficent one is truly Rudra. These other Rudras who are quartered round about in all directions of this earth, may I ward off their anger by my praise”.

“Asau yoavasarpati nilagrivo vilohitah | Utainam gopa adrishannadrishannudaharyah | Utainam vishva bhutani sa drishhto mridayati nah |” (Yajurveda Sri Rudram – Anuvaka -1) “The black-throated Rudra who has assumed the form of the sun that glows red when rising. Him the cowherds, the women carrying water, and all the creatures behold. He, who is seen by all, let Him send happiness to us”.

sAyaNAchAryabhAShyam.h (Commentary of sAyaNAchArya):

"yo rudro nIlagrIvaH kAlakUTadhAraNena nIlavarNA grIvA yasya- asau nIlagrIvaH | sa eva vilohito visheSheNa lohitavarNaH sannasau maNDalavartI bhUtvA .avasarpatyudayAstamayau saMpAdayituM pravartate - tasya cha rudrasya maNDalavarti- svarUpadhAraNe pryojanamuchyate - utApi cha gopA vedashAstrasaMskArarahitA gopAlA apyenaM maNDalavartinam- AdityarUpiNaM rudramadR^ishanpashyanti | udahArya udakAnAM hAriNyo yoShito .apyenamadR^ishanpashyanti| utApi chainaM maNDalavartinamAdityarUpiNaM rudraM vishvA bhUtAni gomahiShyAdayaH sarve .api prANinaH pashyanti | sarveShAM darshanArthameva hi rudrasyAdityamUrtidhAraNam.h| kailAsA- divartirudrasya rUpaM tu vedashAstrAbhiGYaireva dR^ishyate nAnyaiH | tAdR^isho rudro dR^iShTaH sanno .asmAnmR^iDayAti| sukhinaH karotvityarthaH |” “That Rudra whose throat is blue due to bearing the kAlakUTa poison, He only being distinctly reddish in color, being present in the orb of the sun, moves to achieve the rising and setting functions. The objective of Rudra's assuming the role of being in the Sun's orb is thus stated. Moreover, the cowherds who are without purifying ceremonies (saMskAras) of the vedas, too see Him, the Rudra of the form of Aditya in the solar orb. The women who carry water (in pots) too see Him. All beings, including animals such as cows, buffalos, etc., see Rudra who is in the form of Aditya, situated in the solar orb. Rudra assumes the form of Aditya just so that He can grant everyone a vision (darshan) of Himself. Only those who have known the Vedas, not others, can see the form of Rudra as He lives in KailAsa and other places, not others. May such Rudra, seen by us (in the form of Aditya), make us happy.”.

So, it speaks about the highest form of benevolence showered by Bhagawan Rudra on us by being available to us throughout the day in the form of Sun right in front of our eyes. Rudra as Sun is the visible Supreme God whom everyone (sinner to pious souls) can behold equally.

Again,

"tadevaagnistadaadityastadvaayustadu chandramaaH | tadeva shukra.n tad.h brahma tadaapastat.h prajaapatiH |" (Sve Upa. 4:2) "That Supreme Self is Agni (Fire); It is Aditya (Sun); It is Vayu (Wind); It is Chandrama (Moon). That Self is the luminous stars; it is Hiranyagarbha; It is water; It is Virat".

Therefore it is proved beyond doubt that the three Sandhya times (times of transit of the sun), and the gods whom the prayers are addressed everything is identical with Lord Rudra alone! In fact Vedas instruct us to worship lord Rudra in morning, during the day, evening and also at night as mentioned below.

“námaḥ sāyáṃ námaḥ prātár námo rā́tryā námo dívā | bhavā́ya ca śarvā́ya cobhā́bhyām akaraṃ námaḥ |” (Atharva Veda Xi:2:16)" “Let us pay our homage in the morning, during the day, in the evening, and at night – to the Lord who grants us life (Bhava) and who takes it away (Sarva)”.

“yadaa.atamastaanna divaa na raatriH na sannachaasachchhiva eva kevalaH | tadaxara.n tat.h saviturvareNyaM praGYaa cha tasmaat.h prasR^itaa puraaNii |” (Svetaswatara Upanishad 4:18) “When there is complete absence of the darkness of ignorance, then what is experienced is neither day nor night; neither existence or non-existence; only one pure Siva is there; that is indestructible; that is adorable light and the deity of even Savitar himself; from that this ancient wisdom proceeded all over the world”.

As for the Gayatri meter.:

Gāyatrī = Gāya + Trī.

Gāya is derived from Ga (singing);

Trī = Female protector.

Trā = male protector;

Gāyatrī = Song (hymn) that protects; and Gayatri Devi is the protector.

Gayatri is not only a deity but it is a Vedic Meter also. Let’s understand what it means as a Meter.

Gayatri = A Vedic Meter, having three feet and each being 24 syllables long; which is the meter of Gayatri Devi.

Let’s see what Vedas state about the Gayatri.

Agni produced the Earth and he became the Earth in fact. So, Earth is same as Agni. This is evident from the below verse from Vedas.

“tā vā etā nava sṛṣṭayaḥ | iyamasṛjyata tasmādāhustrivṛdagniritīyaṃ hyagnirasyai hi sarvo 'gniścīyate |” (Satapatha Brahmana 6.1.1.14) “This (earth), then, was created as (consisting of) these same nine creations. Hence they say, 'Threefold (three times three) is Agni;' for Agni is this (earth), since thereof the whole Agni (fire-altar) is constructed”.

Then that Earth sang (gâ), therefore she is Gâyatrî. But inf act it was Agni who sang. Hence it is Agni who is Gâyatra.

"abhūdvā iyam pratiṣṭheti | tadbhūmirabhavattāmaprathayatsā pṛthivyabhavatseyaṃ sarvā kṛtsnā manyamānāgāyadyadagāyattasmādiyaṃ gāyatryatho āhuragnirevāsyai pṛṣṭhe sarvaḥ kṛtsno manyamāno 'gāyadyadagāyattasmādagnirgāyatra iti tasmādu haitadyaḥ sarvaḥ kṛtsno manyate gāyati vaiva gīte vā ramate |" (Shatapatha Brahmana 6.1.1.15) “'This (earth) has indeed become (bhû) a foundation!' (he thought): hence it became the earth (bhûmi). He spread it out (prath), and it became the broad one (or earth, prithivî). And she (the earth), thinking herself quite perfect, sang; and inasmuch as she sang (gâ), therefore she is Gâyatrî. But they also say, 'It was Agni, indeed, on her (the earth's) back, who thinking himself quite perfect, sang; and inasmuch as he sang (gâ), therefore Agni is Gâyatra.' And hence whosoever thinks himself quite perfect, either sings or delights in song".

Therefore Gayatri is none other than Agni indeed. It means Agni (male god) is visualized as Gayatri (the female deity). But indeed they are same.

“agnirvai gāyatrī |” (Shatapatha Brahmana 3:4:1:9) “Gâyatrî is verily Agni”.

Now not only that Gayatri as a deity is same as Agni, but the meter (Chandas) is also identical since they both are not different. Agni’s measure also consists of 24 syllables. This is evident from the following verse from Yajurveda Shatapatha Brahmana.

"yadveva caturviṃśatiḥ | caturviṃśatyakṣarā vai gāyatrī gāyatro 'gniryāvānagniryāvatyasya mātrā tāvataivainametatsaminddhe |" (Shatapatha Brahmana 6.2.1.22) "And, again, why there are twenty-four,--the Gâyatrî consists of twenty-four syllables and Agni is Gâyatra: as great as Agni is, as great as is his measure, by so much he thus kindles him".

This is not the end. Agni is an epithet used in Vedas to refer to Lord Shiva. This is evident from the below verse. Agni is indeed Rudra. Vedic seers prefer to not address Rudra directly by his names because of terror of Rudra. But entire Vedas sing only the praises of Rudra under various names.

“agnirvai sa devastasyaitāni nāmāni śarva iti yathā prācyā ācakṣate bhava iti yathā bāhīkāḥ paśūnām patī rudro 'gniriti tānyasyāśāntānyevetarāṇi nāmānyagnirityeva śāntatamaṃ tasmādagnaya iti kriyate sviṣṭakṛta iti ” (Shatapatha Brahmana 1:7:3:8) “Agni is THAT god;--his are these names: Sarva, as the eastern people call him; Bhava, as the Bâhîkas (call him); Pasûnâm pati ('lord of beasts,' Pasupati), Rudra, Agni. The name Agni, doubtless, is the most auspicious (sânta), and the other names of his are inauspicious: hence it is offered to (him under the name of) 'Agni,' and to (him as) the Svishtakrit”.

It states that Rudra’s name “Agni” is the auspicious name that’s why Vedas like to refer him under that name. This doesn’t mean other names are inauspicious, but other names which are direct names are feared by the Vedic seers, so they try to find all sorts of excuses to sing Rudra’s praises under various other names of his own forms, but essentially all glories actually belong to Rudra.

Even in appearance,

“Muktā-vidruma hema dhavalac-chāyair mukhais-tryakṣaṇair, Yuktām indu-nibaddha-mukuṭām tatvārthavaṛṇātmikām | Gāyatrīm varadābhayāṅkuśakaśāḥ śubhram kapālam guṇam śaṅkham cakram athāravindayugalam hastair vahantīm bhaje |” “I meditate on the (five-faced) Goddess Gayatri whose faces are of the hues of the pearl, coral, gold, black and white (stones) of three eyes (in each face), with jeweled diadems set with the crescent moon, composed of syllables representing the real Truth, and holding in the (ten) hands, the poses of offering refuge and boons, goad, whip, white skull, rope, conch, discus and two lotuses”.

Since she is Lord Shiva only in female form, she possesses all the attributes of Siva. Yajurveda Taittiriya Aranyaka (10.17.1, 10.18.1, 10.19.1, 10.20.1 and 10.21.1) detail out the qualities of five faces of Shiva viz. Sadyojata, Vamadeva, Aghora, Tatpurusha and Ishana. The same faces (and names) and colors are carried by Gayatri Devi also. This proves that Gayatri is indeed Lord Shiva only represented in female form as the mother of Vedas conjoint with Prajapati (Brahma).

So, now we came to a conclusion that Rudra created the Earth, and he himself exists as Earth. Rudra is the goddess Gayatri. Rudra is the Gayatri meter also. This is proved in above analysis.

So, both Aditya and Gayatri are none other than an advaita form of Lord Shiva only for whom the Gayatri Mantra is dedicated.

I hope this clarifies your queries.

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