Goddess Gayatri or the Mother of all the Vedas is adored and praised by chanting the powerful Gayatri mantra. The word ‘Gayatri’ itself explains the reason for the existence of this mantra. It has its origin in the Sanskrit phrase Gayantam Triyate iti, and refers to that mantra which rescues the chanter from all adverse situations that may lead to mortality.
The first line ‘Om bhur bhuvah svah’ is not actually part of a Gayatri mantra and it is a special utterance called ‘vyahriti’ that has been added to the beginning of the famous mantra.
The First word ‘OM’ is the prime subject around which the entire creation revolves and it is the permanent truth within which everything exists. It is an auspicious sound made at the beginning of many prayers.
The expression ‘bhur bhuvah’ and ‘svah’ is technical, but a simple way to think of it is as a “call to creation,” that the light of the sun (the light of God) shines on the earth (bhur), in the sky (bhuvah), and in space (svah), and therefore the implication is, “let that light also shine on me.”
The word-to-word breakdown of the Gayatri mantra that most Hindus know is:
tat– that (God)
savitur– of the sun
varenyam– the best
bhargo (bhargas)– light, illumination
dhimahi– let us meditate (a verb)
dhiyo (dhiyah)– thought(s)
nah –of us, our
prachodayat– May it push, inspire (a verb)
The most important word in the Gayatri mantra is the word, “tat” which is a neuter pronoun meaning “that.” It is a reference to “that One,” God.
The sun, which is the source of illumination, heat, food and so many other things in our life, can naturally be seen as the “representative” or symbol of God in this world.
There are two verbs in the Gayatri mantra, ‘dhimahi’ and ‘prachodayat’.
Dhimahi means, “let us meditate on the light (bhargo) of the sun which represents God.”
This is the basic meaning of the first part of the Gayatri Mantra.
Coming to the second part, the verb ‘prachodayat’ literally means, “it should push,” but in more poetic language we can translate it as “let it inspire.”
Dhiyah is “thoughts,” so dhiyo yo nah prachodayat means, “may our thoughts be inspired”
Thus the most literal meaning of the Gayatri mantra is:
“Let us meditate on the light of the sun which represents God, and may our thoughts be inspired by that divine light.”
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