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Tuesday, September 29, 2020

On The Gayatri Mantra

The Gayatri Mantra occurs in the early section of the Rigveda (Mandala 3.62.10); so it must have been composed between 900 B.C. and 1200 B.C. This means that the hymn is more than 3000 years old, but it’s revered by the Hindus as a pious way of starting and ending their day—millions of people recite it at sunrise and sunset; they are convinced that this hymn represents the essence of the Vedas. It’s not clear why the Gayatri Mantra continues to be so popular; this is the only hymn in the world whose recitation has been widespread for more than 3000 years: 

ॐ भूर् भुवः स्वः ।

तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं

भर्गो॑ देवस्य धीमहि ।

धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥

(Oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ

tat savitur vareṇyaṃ

bhargo devasya dhīmahi

dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt) ~Rigveda 3.62.10

The hymn is dedicated to Saraswati, the goddess of learning; since it’s recited at sunrise or sunset, it’s clearly linked to the sun—the word “Savitur” means the driving force behind the sun and not exactly the sun, who is known as Surya. Gayatri refers to the name of the goddess of the Vedic mantra in which the hymn is composed; tradition holds sage Vishvamitra as the hymn’s composer. The Gayatri Mantra is widely cited in Vedic and post-Vedic literature such as Bhagavad Gita, Harivamsa, and Manusmṛti.

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