You may have heard of the Gayathri Mantra. It is called Brahmopadesam or The Great Teaching. Brahmins and some other Hindus perform a ritual called Upanayanam for Young Boys. During this upanayanam ritual the father secretly whispers the Gayathri Mantram in his ear. Now the boy is ready to start the stage of brahmacharya, during which he will remain pure and do all the things (charyas), that will help him attain Brahman. (The great state of God).
For Modern Indian boys, this is a fun event during which they get a lot of gifts and get to wear a sacred thread around their shoulder and neck. That thread has three strings. They change it once a year, wear it on special occasions and devote their time to the acquistion of a westernised education that avoids every spiritual subject. Many of them even forget the Gayathri Mantram.
But for Ancient Indian boys, this was a very special event that changed their life. The education they received was derived from The Veda. It had a very strong spiritual and scientific component to it. Many of them learned weaponry as well.
The Gayathri Mantram was composed by Viswamitra. Vyasa put it into the third Mandala of the Rig Veda. There are 62 Hymns in the 3rd Mandala. Agni, Indra, Viswedevah, Asvins, Mitra, Rbhus and Ushas are the Devas invoked through these hymns. The 10th Mantra of the 62nd Hymn is the Gayathri Mantra.
When Viswamitra meditated on this mantram, he turned from a rajarshi a rishi of the kings, into a brahmarshi, rishi of the brahmans.
It is a part of Ancient India, that is living even today, in our traditions. It is no longer a secret. You can meditate on this three times a day if you like. Learn the proper pronounciation and the proper tune and rythym (chandas). The name of the chandas is Gayathri, which is why this mantram is called the Gayathri Manthram
Here is the shloka written in English script with its meaning :
Om Bhur Bhuva Svah
Om, That which is past, present and in the future,
Tat Savitr Varenyam
That perfect source, creator and protector
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
On the splendour of that Deva, We meditate
Dhiyoyo Nah Prachodayat.
May our minds be illuminated!
There are quite a few other interpretations. Some people translate the first line as the three worlds : the earth, the space between the earth and the sun and the space between the sun and the pole star. The next two lines they translate as the brilliance of the Sun, but nearly everyone translates the last line the same sense.
Another definition of Gayathri as per the Mahabharata, Bhishma Parva.
“Of mobile and immobile creatures, there are thus one less twenty; and as regards their universal constituents, there are five. Twenty-four in all, these are described as Gayatri (Brahma) as is well-known to all. He who knows these truly to be the sacred Gayatri possessed of every virtue, is not liable, O best of the Bharatas, to destruction in this world.”
“Creatures in this world are of two kinds, mobile and immobile. Mobile creatures are of three kinds according to their birth, viz., oviparous, viviparous, and those engendered by heat and damp. Of mobile creatures, O king, the foremost are certainly those called viviparous. Of viviparous creatures the foremost are men and animals. Animals, O king, of diverse forms, are of fourteen species. Seven have their abodes in the woods, and seven of these are domestic. Lions, tigers, boars, buffaloes, and elephants as also bears and apes, are, O king, regarded as wild. Kine, goats, sheep, men, horses, mules, and asses,–these seven amongst animals are reckoned as domestic by the learned. These fourteen, O king, complete the tale of domestic and wild animals, mentioned, O lord of earth, in the Vedas, and on which the sacrifices rest. Of creatures that are domestic, men are foremost, while lions are the foremost of those that have their abode in the woods. All creatures support their life by living upon one another. Vegetables are said to be immobile, and they are of four species viz., trees, shrubs, creepers, creeping plants existing for only a year, and all stemless plants of the grass species.”
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