Gayatri Mantra explained
The Gāyatrī Mantra, also known as the Sāvitrī mantra, is a highly revered mantra from the Rig Veda. Gāyatrī is the name of the Vedic meter in which the verse is composed. Its recitation is traditionally preceded by oṃ and the formula bhūr bhuvaḥ svaḥ, known as the mahāvyāhṛti, or “great (mystical) utterance”.
The Gayatri mantra is repeated and cited very widely in Vedic literature and praised in several classical Hindu texts such as the Bhagavad Gita , Harivamsa, and Manusmṛti. In the Pali Canon, the Buddha praises the Gayatri mantra as the foremost meter. The mantra is an important part of the upanayana ceremony for young males in Hinduism, and has long been recited by dvija men as part of their daily rituals. Modern Hindu reform movements spread the practice of the mantra to include women and all castes and its use is now very widespread.
Gayatri is typically portrayed as seated on a red lotus, signifying wealth. She appears in either of these forms:
Having five heads (Mukta, Vidruma, Hema, Neela, Dhavala) with the ten eyes looking in eight directions plus the earth and sky, and ten arms holding all the weapons of Lord Shiva, Lord Vishnu and Lord Brahma.
Accompanied by a white swan, holding a book to portray knowledge in one hand and a cure in the other, as the Goddess of education.
She is an aspect of Mata Saraswati, Mata Lakshmi and Mata Parvati, all three in one form, a form of Adi Shakti, possessing the Rajasi Guna and, hence, is the source of Brahma’s power. Without her, Brahma remains dormant or unable to create. It’s said that if one were to worship anyone, Gayatri, Lakshmi, Saraswati, Durga or Radha devi, it is equal to worshiping all the pancha (5) matha.
Gayatri is, in fact, the name applied to one of the most well known Vedic hymns consisting of twenty-four syllables. This hymn is addressed to god Surya (sun) as the supreme generative force. One translation of this hymn is: “We meditate on that glorious light of the divine Surya (Sun), may he, the lord of light, illuminate our minds”. It is purported that repeating this hymn leads to salvation (moksha); that one who desires to attain heaven should recite it a thousand times each day; and that a person, who daily repeats the Gayatri hymn 3000 times for one month, shall be freed from guilt, however great.
Gayatri later came to be personified as a goddess. She is shown having five heads and is usually seated within a lotus. She is seen as a consort of Brahma.
According to the myth, one day Saraswati was late to arrive at the time when Brahma was to perform his sacrifices to gods. Brahma became very angry because his consort’s presence was indispensable to complete the ceremonies. Brahma asked the priest to fetch him any woman and wed him to her at the spot. Nearby was found a very lovely girl mostly seen near the Mt. Kailash Manasarovar region during that time . In reality, she was no other person than this Vedic hymn of Gayatri incarnated in the shape of that beautiful girl. Brahma immediately married that girl and kept her as his other wife together with Saraswati.
The five heads of Gayatri represent the four Vedas of ancient Aryans, and the remaining one represents the Almighty Lord himself. In her ten hands she holds all the symbols of Lord Vishnu including mace, lotus, axe, conch, sudarshan chakra, lotus, etc. One of the sacred texts explicitly reads, ‘The Gayatri is Brahma, the Gayatri is Vishnu, the Gayatri is Shiva, the Gayatri is Vedas”.
All sects of Hindus accept the importance of this hymn. Even the Arya Samajists, who do not believe in the worship of images and idols, proclaim this hymn as the most sacred one and in every prayer of theirs repeat the holy mantra to achieve success as well as salvation.