The Gayatri Mantra

I was about 11 years old when I was given,  this Mantra in a big ceremony called ‘Yagyo Pavita’.

Yagyo Pavita (Thread Ceremony),  till about 20 years ago was a big function  in most of Hindus particularly Brahmin families.  All relatives, friends, associates would be invited, preparations would start months before and the grandeur of the celebrations were only second to marriage.  Inthis ceremony, the child was baptised and a mantra known as “Gayatri Mantra” was given to him.   A great secrecy was maintained while giving this mantra. At the age of 11  when I was initiated to this Mantra my Guru, the priest who performed the ceremony, (incidentally he was my Sanskrit teacher also)  took a Banarasi Gamcha, (a thin towel made from red & white  threads  widely used in Varanasi)  covered his and my face with it an then very softly whispered the mantra in my ear.  Then he instructed that I should always recite this mantra silently.  No one else should hear it.  I should recite it daily, but never in bathroom or naked

I was told that whenever in trouble I should recite  this mantra, and the trouble would go away.   After the ceremony, I had 7 days to recite this mantra 1,25,000 times, both morning & evening.  However, neither my guru, nor anybody else, explained to me the meaning of this secretive mantra.  As a token of having completed this baptism  I was asked to wear a thread of hand spun cotton having three strings called “Janeu” with a number of instructions on how to maintain this thread.     I dutifully   recited  this mantra 1,25,000 times in 7 days and then for few years,  I used to recite the mantra 108 times both morning and evening.  Years passed away and to me then whole thing started to seem like a useless ritual.   First, the reciting of mantra stopped.  Then  the “Janeu”, when in college hostels,  was found useful for hanging the keys  and ultimately discarded as useless.

However, the ‘Gayatri Mantra’,  the words,  were  itched in my mind.

About two years back, while traveling from Baroda to Lucknow, my native place, I purchased ‘Dainik Aaj’ a Hindi daily  at  the Ratlam station.  It was almost a 24 hour journey and hence I ended up reading it from the first page to  the last page and there on the editorial page, just above  the editorial where today’s thoughst are published I found the Gayatri Mantra and to my amazement below the mantra its meaning.  I was stunned.  It took me a few minutes to get back to normal.  At the age of 57 years, after 46 years of initiation, I finally knew the meaning of  the Gayatri mantra.

‘O’ God ! why I was not told the meaning of this mantra from very beginning. Why such secrecy. Why it is not told to every one irrespective of their cast, class, gender or even religion.  Of course, later I found , most of the Pandits, who used to initiate the child, did not themselves  know  the true meaning of the Mantra but my Guru, who initiated me, was a Vyakarnacharya and Sahityacharya, double post graduate in Sanskrit both in Sanskrit Grammer and sanskrit literature.  He certainly knew the meaning.  Why did he not tell me.

 The mantra is from the ‘Rigveda’ which is supposed to be 5000-7000 years old and is devoted to Lord Sun.  It says

(Om Bhoor-bhuvah Swah Tat-Savitur Varenyam. Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi  Dhiyo Yonah Pracho-Dayat)

gayatri mantra hindi calligraphy

The meaning of the mantra is “O LORD, LET YOUR SUPREME RAYS ILLUMINATE EARTH, HEAVENS AND ENTIRE UNIVERSE AND LET OUR INTELLECT BE GUIDED BY IT”.  A simple and short  statement but how deep  and profound it’s meaning.   The mantra simply  prays to the lord to keep our thoughts pure & enlightened.  If we have right & enlightened thoughts everything in our life will be right & enlightened.  We shall always be on the path to prosperity, happiness and success.

The fact of life, which took me more than 50 years of struggle to realise; that it is our thoughts which shape our life,  was told to me when I was only 11 years old and still I did not know. All our achievements in our life is the product of our thinking. We are not what we think but certainly what we think we are.

Subsequently I asked all my acquaintances the meaning of the Gayatri Mantra.  But no one,  save for one, knew the meaning of this mantra.  The sole exception was an unauthorised  person knowing this mantra who happened to be a Sanskrit scholar.   Later while visiting Mombasa in Kenya I was surprised to find this mantra with its meaning on a plaque in a Hindu Temple.

Last that year, there were protestations by Vishwahindu Parishad & Bajurangdal activists for alleged disrespect to Gayatri Mantra shown by Amitabh Bachchan.  He was accused of  reciting this mantra on TV with his shoes on.  Amitabh Bachchan gave the clarification that he had removed his shoes while reciting the mantra.  Both accusers and accused were probably unaware of the meaning of this mantra, which should be spoken and remembered with anything on or of.  Actually most of the people think that Gayatri is some goddess and the Mantra is in her prayer.

When I asked my father in law, an ardent devotee and believer in the Gayatri Mantra  the meaning of the mantra,  being a retired bureaucrat of Indian Government, he could not admit his ignorance and told me the meaning as ” lord almighty god we pray your greatness and look forward to you for our welfare and protection”.

What great ancestors we had, they realized the importance of thoughts about 7000 years  ago and they made the   simple action of  telling this fact to future generations with so much of fan fare and importance.
Every morning and evening we had to remember this fact of life atleast 108 times everyday and how foolish were we, the inheritors that we recited the words  so many times as instructed but never cared to reach it’s very essence, its meaning.  No wonder, the ancient Indian Society was a leading culture, perhaps the foremost amongst it’s peers

1 comment

  1. Thank you so much for sharing the intimate and profound experience of how the precious meaning of the Gayatri Mantra revealed itself to you. A true reminder for us all to make the effort to explore our rich roots and unparalleled power that even the smallest traditions of Santana Dharma contain. What an inspiring and empowering note. I write to you from Kerala, which has been going through great turmoil at this point due to this lack of understanding and appreciation of our cultural practices. May we all learn!

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