ESOTERIC SIGNIFICANCE OF GAYATRI MANTRA
- Dr.E.S.NEELAKANTAN FCA PhD
Few of us are really able to appreciate the mystery of human life on earth. Scientists are
still in the in the process of discovering whether life exists anywhere in the cosmos other
than on earth. The prospect of living on any planet other than the earth into which we are
all born is still unproved. Every living being is essentially an amalgam of spirit and
matter. We are actually spiritual beings having a human experience. Advaita philosophy
tells us that in reality there is only one self or rather a single living entity which pervades
all living beings and in that state by a phenomenon called Maya (cosmic illusion) each
perceives itself as separate from the rest. For example, a frog gets eaten by a snake. In an
overall sense, the Atman present in both is one and the same. Why then is there an
animosity between the two? How does a frog become prey for a snake? Our Rishis were
the first to ponder over such vexed questions and finally they came out with an
explanation which should satisfy our curiosity. All that happens in the world is actually a
divine Lila (or Sport) of the creator. For a movie to be seen a screen is needed. For all
experiences to be witnessed, some underlying field is needed. This underlying field is
what the Rishis called as “Brahman”. The observer, the observed and the process of
observation are three aspects of any event that we witness but in reality there is only one
field which makes itself into this triad in this grand cosmic illusion.
LIBERATION OF JIVA FROM MATTER
The illusion discussed above takes place on a continuous basis. Our Rishis were the first
to take up the issue of when the living entities would be able to escape from this illusion.
The answer they provided was that when the Atman ceases to desire anything it becomes
calm and aware of itself as consciousness and liberates itself from matter. “Yogas chitta
Vritti Nirodha” says sage Patanjali in his yoga sutras (Yoga is when consciousness abides
in its own self without modifications). When we think of an elephant, an image of an
elephant is formed in our mind. Sage Patanjali exhorts us not to introduce these fancied
objects into our realm of consciousness and thereby retain the focus of the Atman on
itself. Our Rishis were the first to grasp the fact that a single discipline cannot suit the
entire humanity as each person has a different tendency or vasana behind him. The Gita
says that one can reach the goal of self - realisation through Bhakthi yoga, karma yoga,
jnana yoga or Raja yoga. All these yogas can also be applied in a mixed form as is the
case with Sri Aurobindo’s Integral Yoga.
The cosmos seems to be moving in two opposite directions viz. Pravritti (evolution) and
Nivritti (involution). The will of Iswara to get entangled in matter (Eko Aham Bahusyam
– “The one Brahman desired to become many” is the Vedic dictum) is effected through
“Maya”or the cosmic illusion. The reverse process of liberation from the world of matter
is possible through the power of Gayatri. It was the Nobel laureate Albert Einstein who
posited the theory that Matter and Energy are interchangeable (e=mc2). This means that at
a certain level energy and matter are the same. It is the same reality which is present in all
bodies (Bhagavad-Gita Ch.18/verse 20). The terms “Kshetrajna” (known of field) and
“kshetra” (field) are comprehensively discussed in chapter 13 of the Gita. “Know me as
Kshetrajna in all Kshetras” is Sri Krishna’s message to Arjuna (Ibid, Ch.13/verse2). The
Advaitic view that there is no difference between Jiva and Brahman.
GAYATRI – MEANING AND SIGNIFICANCE
The word “Gayatri” is the Sanskrit word for a hymn. The Hindu scriptures point out the
fact that this word can be used in three different contexts.
1. The Gayatri is the most important of all the mantras used in Vedas. In Bhagavad
Gita, Lord Krishna says “Gayatri Chandasamaham” (of Vedic verses I am
Gayatri)(Chapter 10 / Verse 35). The Gayatri is a Vedic poetic metre of 24 syllables
(three lines of 8 syllables each)
2. Gayatri also denotes the goddess portrayed as seated on a red lotus. She is
portrayed as having five heads. Gayatri is considered as mother of all Vedas. What
needs to be reiterated here is that chanting of Veda mantras by a person who does not
perform the daily sandhya vandanam (which includes Gayatri Japa) is considered as
an exercise in futility.
3. Gayatri also refers to the Gayatri mantra which is the most important of all hymns
in Vedic literature
om bhūr bhuvah svah
(a) tát savitúr váreniyam
(b) bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
(c) dhíyo yó nah prachodáyāt
Om represents the three spheres of existence (bhuh etc.) .We meditate upon the divine
light of that adorable sun of spiritual consciousness. May it illumine our intellect
A person desirous of wealth should worship Goddess Lakshmi; one who seeks learning
should worship Goddess Saraswathi; one who wants to get rid of difficulties should
worship Goddess Parvati. Thus all the three divinities discussed above deal with the
material world. But if one wishes to unite with Iswara or know that one is not different
from Iswara, then that wisdom can be conferred only by Gayatri. One should worship the
Goddess Gayatri chanting the Gayatri mantra which uses the Vedic metre, Gayatri. Thus
all the three connotations of Gayatri lead to the same goal.
Gayatri is essentially addressed to the sun god and now let us have a look at some
interesting anecdotes concerning the Sun-god for us to appreciate the greatness of the
THE INEXHAUSTIBLE VESSEL
In the epic Mahabharata there is a story about the inexhaustible vessel, Akshayapatra
which was given to king Yudhistira by the sun – god in answer to the former’s prayers.
The vessel had the power to provide unlimited food everyday. The boon given was that
finally when Draupadi has her lunch, the vessel will cease to provide further food for the
day. Once when sage Durvasa came with a retinue, the Pandavas got tense as Draupadi
had already finished her meal and they were in a fix not knowing how to tackle the sage
who was endowed with a fulminous temper. At this stage Lord Krishna partakes a single
grain of rice from the vessel and felt satisfied. Instantly sage Durvasa and his followers
too felt satiated and Pandavas were saved the embarrassment of not feeding a guest. This
story merely emphasis two principles
(1) Sun god is capable of conferring spiritual and material blessings without limit.
(2) Since lord Krishna represents the soul of universe, his satisfaction resulted in the
satisfaction of Jivas (beings) in whom he actually dwells, with or without, that
fact being realized by the Jivas.
The “Aditya Hridayam” is a sacred hymn addressed to the sun-god and it appears in
canto107 of the Yuddha khanda of Ramayana. Aditya Hridayam is akin to the Gayatri but
more elaborate. The venerable sage of Tiruvannamalai (Tamilnadu), Seshadri Swamigal
used to advise seekers of Moksha to recite Aditya Hridayam. Recitation of Aditya
Hridayam destroys sins and enemies, allays grief and anxiety, and bestows longevity.
One should remember to recite this hymn in the morning, thrice for attaining success in
all endeavours. In order to gain victory over king Ravana, Sri Rama was initiated into this
hymn by Sage Agastya.
JEWEL FROM THE SUN
King Satrajit was a devotee of sun-god. Pleased with his devotion, the Sun-god presented
him with a precious jewel (called Syamantaka Mani) which could magically produce
eight measures (170 pounds) of gold everyday. Krishna urged Satrajit to give the jewel to
King Ugrasena but Satrajit refused to part with the jewel. A few days later, when Prasena
wearing the jewel went for hunting, he was killed accidentally. A lion picked up the jewel
and while it was walking, Jambavan, the king of bears killed the lion, took away the gem
and gifted it to his infant son. Krishna came to the cave, fought Jambavan who
surrendered to Krishna and gave his daughter Jambavati in marriage to Krishna. In order
to show his goodwill to Lord Krishna, King Satrajit gave his daughter Satyabhama in
marriage to Krishna. Satrajit was subsequently killed by Shatadanva. Shatadanva is killed
by Krishna by way of punishment and the story ends in a positive note with Sri Krishna
allowing Akrura to have custody of the jewel. Syamantaka Mani is considered as an
invaluable jewel and the above story highlights the inherent benevolence of Sun-god.
This story appears in 10th canto of Srimad Bhagavatam.
SUN – A SCIENTIFIC VIEWPOINT
Sun bathing is practised more in western countries than in India. In some beaches in
India, one can find foreigners lying on the beach exposing themselves to the rays of the
sun. It is said that the skin generates Vitamin D using sunshine. Makara Sankranti is
celebrated in all parts of our country. It is the day on which the sun commences its
Northern course. On this day, lakhs of people take bath in the holy waters of rivers such
as Ganges. This act has a purificatory effect on both body and mind though it is still to be
proved in science. The process by which sun generates energy is through nuclear fusion –
a process about which scientists are yet to gain the required clarity. Solar energy is used
by plants in the process of photosynthesis and Sun is the ultimate source of energy which
is stored in fossil fuels. The entire universe derives sustenance from the Sun.
The “Upanayanam” ceremony is one of the Hindu samskaras or purificatory rites. The
function should be performed in “ Garbashtamam” or when the boy has reached an age
of 7 years and two months. (Note that “Ashtamam” means eight and “Garbashtamam”
means inclusive of period since conception, eight years, which means ten months in
mother’s womb and two months and seven years after birth.) On the day of investiture of
sacred thread, the boy’s father (who is the guru to the boy) should not have moon in
eighth house. The function should be conducted in Uttarayana when the Sun is on its
northern course. The “Sandhya – Vandanam” or daily prayers are done in the morning,
noon and at around sunset daily with Gayatri as its central mantra. The daily prayers
include samida dhanam (or a prayer in the form of Agni upasana addressed to Fire god),
offerings of water as oblation and Pranayamam (giving stability to breath). In other
words, Air, Water and Fire are the three principal elements and these prayers involve
propitiation of their respective deities. A seed sprouts, becomes a plant. Agni (or fire
element) is responsible for this modification. Every modification we see in this universe
is mainly due to the fire element. Enlightenment occurs when one’s intellect is able to
comprehend the inner meaning of things. This is possible only through the blessings of
Agni Bhagawan (or fire god) and this explains the inner significance of fire rituals and
prayers to Sun god. The student after learning “Sandhya Vandhanam” is also taught
“Surya Namaskaram” which is a mantra found in Yajur Veda.
Surya namaskaram is also done as a physical exercise involving twelve postures or
Asanas. This exercise is a boon to both body and mind as it involves physical activity in
the form of Asanas, Pranayamam (or breath control) and leads to purification of mind
through chanting of mantras. It also involves the concept of Sun – bathing which is
popular now in western countries but known to our Rishis even in ancient times. Surya
Namaskaram involves a few forward bending postures. Any forward bending posture has
the propensity to arouse the dormant force called Kundalini Sakthi which is like a coiled
serpent at the base of the Spinal column and when activated in a proper manner, it travels
upwards through the sushumna nadi(canal), passes through the various chakras starting
from its origin in Muladhara chakra via Manipura, Svadishtana, Anahata, Vishuddi, Ajna,
reaches the thousand-petalled-lotus-like chakra called Sahasrara and when this process
gets over, the Sadhaka(spiritual aspirant) would have realised one’s own identity with
This practice of doing Surya Namaskaram in the form of physical exercises has evolved
over a period of time. As the saying goes, “Arogyam Bhaskarat Ichchet” (one becomes
healthy through the blessings of Sun god). All prayers addressed to Sun–god result in
health, prosperity, success and final emancipation (Mukti). From the time prescribed for
the daily worship, astrologically we find that it is Sun in lagna (morning), Sun in 10th
(noon) and Sun in 7 (at sunset). Sun in 10th comes under the auspicious Abhijit Muhurtha,
while Sun in lagna and 7 shows that it has Digbala or directional strength. Thus our
Rishis have identified periods of worship where the spiritual activity has the support of
the concerned planet. There is a Tamil “Siddha” saying which states as follows
“Kaanamal Kodu, konamal kodu, kandu kodu” (Give without seeing, without bending,
while seeing). The Siddhars are a class of evolved beings and their sayings have
profound meaning but appear to be brief. The above adage refers to the time of giving
oblations during Sandhya worship. “Without seeing” means just prior to sunrise (early
morning), “ without bending” means Sun is straight over your head (at noon) and “while
seeing” means seeing the red Sun just before sunset.
MANTRA SASTRA AND MANTRA YOGA
To understand the significance of Gayatri Japa, we need to know the underlying concepts
of Mantra Sastra and Mantra Yoga. Certain subtle specific powers reside in the sounds
produced by the letters in Sanskrit alphabet. Each mantra is codified by a Rishi.
Vishwamitra is the Rishi who gave us the Gayatri Mantra. Our Rishis had intuitive
knowledge over the subtler planes and by a certain permutation and combination of
letters they were able to discover these mantras. Certain specific results can be produced
by use of certain mantras- this science is Mantra Sastra. To achieve the goal of self-
realisation, sadhana (or self preparation) is needed. This necessarily involves purification
of consciousness. One of the methods through which this goal is attained is by Mantra
yoga, or the chanting of mantras for realizing one’s own self. In textbooks like “Mantra –
Mahodadhih” we find several mantras addressed to various deities.
There is a Sanskrit saying “there are no letters or sounds that are not mantras; there are
no plants which have no therapeutic efficiency; there are no human beings without
talent”. From the Advaitic stand point, the mantra about a deity is no different from the
deity. So the utterance of sequential sounds is capable of transforming the sound into its
relevant divine powers with unlimited divine potentiality.
RELEVANCE OF AYURVEDA
The ancient Rishis seem to have all the Ayurvedic principles in mind, before laying down
the rules for worship .One of the principles undertaken to be followed by the student at
the time of investiture of sacred thread is avoidance of sleep during day time (“Ma-
Sushupta’’ is the command he is supposed to obey- Do not take the afternoon nap).
Nowadays people seem to suffer from a mistaken notion that by sleeping in the
afternoon, both body and mind get well-deserved rest and they feel refreshed during the
post-lunch session of work. However this view is without an iota of truth. While sleeping
at noon, both Pitta (the fire element) and Kapha (the water element) gets totally disturbed
.The “Tridosha Equilibrium” propounded by Ayurveda Rishis stands vitiated and one
becomes prone to Cataract, diabetes, throat infection and several other diseases. In olden
times when people felt drowsy at noon, they used to sit in an “easy-chair” and relax for
sometime, and then resume their daily chores. This was a healthy practice. By sleeping at
noon, the mind loses its contact with the Sun, thus weakening the vital force present in
the human body.
FAITH AND ITS POWER
A lot of diseases get cured purely based on faith. Faith means total confidence in what
one is doing. For our present discussion, we will use the word “faith” to mean “an
unassailable confidence in the saviourship of god”. Faith is required for success in Yogic
sadhana. Our Rishis were the first to find out that doubt leads to destruction of the
fancied object; it leads to failure. Faith on the other hand leads to success. In two
consecutive verses, Lord Krishna brings out the glory of a person endowed with faith and
the imminent downfall of skeptics (Bhagawad Gita, ch.4, verses 39,40). Using parables,
our Rishis highlighted the importance of faith in our epics and puranas. Three important
anecdotes on faith need emphasis here.
(1) Brahmastra (a special kind of missile) was used by Indrajit (son of King Ravana)
to arrest Hanuman, as he was destroying the Ashoka garden. Indrajit had a lurking doubt
about the efficacy of Brahmastra. So he brought further materials such as ropes and
chains to bind Hanuman. This made the Brahmastra virtually powerless.
(2) The story of the elephant King Gajendra (Srimad Bhagavatam, canto 8,
chapters 2,3,4) bring out the efficacy of surrender to Higher Self. Until the elephant was
fighting with the crocodile for survival, the suffering continued. The moment it gave up,
it was saved. According to Srimad Bhagavatam, the mere recitation of the story in the
morning is enough to confer eternal residence in the spiritual world.
(3) As long as Queen Draupadi tried to defend herself while being disrobed by
Dushasana, in the open court, Lord Krishna did not interfere. When she gave up,
throwing her hands up in despair, Lord Krishna started supplying an unending stream of
cloth, thereby saving Draupadi’s honour.
The three anecdotes described above reveal the significance of Lord Krishna’s statement
in Bhagavad Gita,
“Abandon all dharmas (duties), take refuge in me alone; I shall liberate you from all
sins; Grieve not” (Ibid, ch18/verse 66)
Role of Sun in individual horoscopes
The effects of the conjunction of Sun with the other planets are as follows :
MOON : Submissive to wife; clever
MARS : Hardworking but wicked and untruthful
MERCURY : Learned,beautiful,strong;fickle minded
JUPITER : Endowed with faith;
VENUS : Intelligent,will honour wife's relations;
SATURN : Dull witted;
The favourable Yogas involving the Sun are the Vesi Yoga,Vasi yoga,Obayachari yoga and
Budha Aditya Yoga.
Now let us take a look at the effects of the Sun's placement in the twelve houses.
ASCENDANT : Short tempered,lean,haughty;
2 : Has stammering,lacks modesty and riches;
4 : Unhappy;without relatives and friends,fritters away ancestral property;
5 : Is short lived; is bereft of happiness,wealth and children;
6 : Has good qualities; is wealthy and victorious ;
7 : Will wander without wife,suffer humiliation;
8 : Defective eyesight: will suffer loss of wealth and friends;
9: Has reverence for God and will have children and relatives;
10 : Blessed with sons ,wealth,strength and fame;
11 : Blessed with longevity and wealth;
12: Defective eyesight;Has no wealth or children;
Sun and Terrestrial affairs
Agricultural crops respond to the movements of the Sun.
1.Summer crops are affected either beneficially or otherwise by the Solar ingress into Scorpio
the Solar ingress into Taurus affects autumnal crops.
2.At the time of Solar ingress into Scorpio if benefics conjoin the Sun or are placed in quadrants
the summer crops will stand to benefit.
3.Summer crops will flourish if at the time of Solar ingress into Scorpio ,Mercury is in 2(in
Sagittarius),Venus in 11 (in Virgo)and Moon is in the 4th from Sun,in Aquarius.Cattle will flourish
if in addition to this,Jupiter is in Leo.
Sun in Scorpio hemmed between or aspected by malefics,or having Mars -saturn conjunction in
the 7th in Taurus will all result in widespread destruction of crops.
4.Wheat,Barley,Mustard,Sesame are examples of rabi crops( or rather spring crops which refer to
crops harvested betwwen April and June) while Maize,Groundnut,Rice etc are examples of Kharif
or autumnal crops which are usually sown in July after the advent of Southwest monsoon.
Solar ingress into Scorpio determines the fate of rabi crops and the Solar ingress into Taurus
determines tha fate of kharif crops.It is also important to note that seasons vary based on
geographical locations and the above analysis made by Varahamihira must be understood in the
light of the fact that he was one of the "navaratnas " or Nine Gems(among Court Poets) who
occupied an important place in the Court Of Chandragupta Vikramaditya II in the 6th century
AD and was born in Ujjain in Central India.His analysis has complete relevance to the tropical
climate of Central India
and must be understood in the light of changes in climate arising out of geographical peculiarities
The significance of Gayatri mantra is well-brought out in our scriptures. It protects the
person who recites it regularly. Annually on the day next to Avani Avittam, it is recited
1008 times as a remedial measure. Among the nine planets, Mars is very powerful.
Among mantras, Gayatri is the most powerful. Tuesday is Bhowmavara (or the day ruled
by mars). When one apprehends danger to self, Gayatri mantra can be chanted 1008
times, optionally on a Tuesday. It is also desirable to chant Gayatri mantra at the time of
Solar Eclipse. There are Gayatri mantras addressed to most of the deities in Hindu
Pantheon. Gayatri mantra to Lord Narayana is found as the concluding verse in Narayana
suktam. This can be chanted during times of solar eclipse. The Gayatri to Lord Narayana
is addressed as follows:
“Narayanaya Vidmahe Vasudevaya dhimahi
Tanno Vishnu Prachodayat”
The above Gayatri is one of the twelve Gayatris mentioned in the first Anuvaka (chapter)
of Mahanarayana Upanishad, addressed to various deities. On a daily basis Gayatri
mantra, while forming part of Sandhya worship, is recited 108 times in the morning, 32
times at noon and 64 times at around sunset. The essence of water is Ojas; the essence of
fire is tejas; the essence of air is prana; thus Ojas, Prana and Tejas are the three
important essences of the human body. The Gayatri mantra, being addressed to the fire
element, regulates and sustains Tejas.
Speech also requires Tejas; In particular, to gain “Vak Siddhi” or the power of speech,
astrologers have to practise chanting of Gayatri regularly. This not only gives them very
good command over words but also benefits the person who listens to the readings of