GAAYATREE MANTRAS FOR MEDITATION ON CHOSEN DEITEES
(I-DISCOURSE BY N.R. SRINIVASAN, BRENTWOOD, TN, USA, APRIL 2013)
Hindu worship of any Ishtadeevata (chosen deity) is directed only towards the Supreme Being Brahman. This will be clear when we look at any specific Gaayatree mantra of a particular deity given in earlier Upanishads. Gaayatree mantra on individual deity during worship is necessary for oral and mental repetition known as Japa. Spiritual seekers employ them for worship and meditation on Supreme Being. These are mantras that are to be repeatedly recited by the devotees of their respective chosen deity or deities. They are therefore called as ”Rudra Gaayatree”, “ Vishnu Gaayatree”, “Ganesha Gaayatree” etc., named after the deity. It also implies thereby that it is not necessary to chant all Gaayatrees at one time before any deity but only chant the Gaayatree specific to the deity and concentrate on that particular deity.
In all Gaayatrees three epithets (like Purusha, Mahaadeva and Rudra in Rudra Gaayatree) and three acts, namely, knowledge, meditation and impelling or invigoration are to be connected. The meditation or Dhyaana in any Gaayatree is mostly directed to Purusha meaning Saguna Brahman. Gaayatree Mantra is prescribed by Saastras for Brahmopaasana or meditation on Brahman.
Bhagavadgeetaa also says whatever deity one may worship in whatever forms that will only lead to Brahman who is the inner controller (Antaryaamin) of all Beings:
Yoe yoe yam yam tanum bhaktah sraddhaya-architum icchaati | Tasya tasyaachalaam sraddham taam eva vidadhaamu yaham || (7—21)
Sa tayaa sraddhayaa yuktas tasyaaraadhanam eehate |Labhate cha tatah kaamaan mayaiva vihitaan hi taan || (7—22)
Whoever desires to worship whatever deity using any name, form and method with faith Supreme Being makes their devotion in that very deity steady. Endowed with steady faith they worship that deity and realize their wishes through that deity. But in actual fact those wishes are indeed granted by the Supreme Being alone. Whatever deity a person may worship, his or her prayers and obeisance reach the Supreme Being, Paramaatman as all waters reach the ocean only!
Mantra refers to Vedic text or Hymn. Every mantra has a rishi as its author, a Chhandas or meter for its composition and a deity to contemplate upon. The word Gaayatree refers to a particular meter (Chhandas) of 24 letters in which a very large number of Vedic mantras are composed. Rigveda Mantra 3. 62. 10 whose seer is Viswaamitra and the deity is Savitar is the most popular of all Gaayatree Mantras which is used by the twice born Hindu (Dwija) for his daily prayers (Sandhyaavandana) and special acts of worship. The popular mantra runs as follows. :
Om bhooh | Om bhuvah | O(ga)m suvah Om mahah | Om janah | Om tapah | O(ga)m satyam| Om tat-savitur-varenyam bhargoe devasya dheemahi | dhiyoe yoe nah prachoedayaat | Om-aapoe-jyotee-rasoe-amritam brahma bhoor-bhuvah suvar-Om ||
Om is Earth! Om is Sky! Om is Heaven! Om is Mid-region! Om is place of birth! Om is the mansion of the blessed! Om is the abode of Truth! May we meditate on Om, the venerable Light of the Divine Creator who hastens our understanding! Om is water, light, aroma, ambrosia, and also of the three worlds bhoo-bhuvar-suvah. He who is denoted by Pranava (Om) is all these. [This is the Praanaayaama mantra as explained in detail in the discourse Patanjalis’s Ashtaanga Yoga].
The above well-known mantra which is used in Praanaayaama is directed to Lord Savitar, who is the cause of this Universe. He prompts our sense organs (Jnaanedriyas). The seven worlds mentioned above have Brahman (Savitar) as their inner-self. The five elements and their qualities are glorified in this mantra as being Brahman alone. This Gaayatree mantra is also called Saavitri and Sarasvati mantra who are also worshiped as Savitar. Gaayatree meter is also personified and considered as feminine deity and worshiped as such by religious followers.
All Gaayatree mantras contain the essence of all worship in the most luminous and very concise manner. The essence of worship to any deity consists of: 1) A name and characteristic description of the object of worship and 2) a prayer directed towards that deity to attain the highest and best fruit of life. Every religious aspirant who strives for the uplift of his or her own self should also remember the whole community to which he or she belongs so that all may be spiritually elevated from the previous level. This great truth is revealed in all Gaayatree mantra in the plural expressions, “May we know” and “May we meditate” contained in the mantra. Gaayatree mantra is repeated for getting purity of mind accompanied by meditation on the Supreme. The supplication implied in the last word prachoedayaat finally points out that the worshiper owes his approach to the impulse or invigoration granted by the deity alone of his choice.
Puraanas glorify that each of the letters of the celebrated Gaayatree hymn above consisting of twenty-four syllables/letters is represented by one of the twenty four forms of Vishnu. While performing the daily ritual of Sandhyaavandana It is customary to recite the names of these twenty-four forms and consecrate the twenty-four spots in the body. Gayantree-saara Sangraha identifies the twenty-four letters of the Gaayatree Mantra with deities presiding over the letters (Abhimaana Devata) and Names of Vishnu:
No. Gaayatree letter Abhimana Devata Names of Vishnu
1. ta Agni Kesava
2. tsa Prajaapati Narayana
3. vi Soma Maadhava
4. tu Easaana Govinda
5. va Savitar Vishnu
6. re Brihaspati Madhusoodana
7. ni Paitru-deva Trivikrama
8. yam Bhaga Vaamana
9. bha Aaryama Sreedhara
10. rgoe Saavitri Hrisheekesa
11. dey Tvashtr Padmanaabha
12. va Pooshan Daamodara
13. sya Indra Sankarshana
14. dhee Agni Vaasudeva
15. ma Vaayu Pradyumna
16. hi Mitra-varuna Aniruddha
17. dhi Bhraatrideva Purushoettama
18. yoe Visvedeva Adhoekshaja
19. yoe Vishnu Naarasimha
20. nah Vaasava Achyuta
21. pra Tushtaba Janaardana
22. choe Kubera Upendra
23. da Dasra Hari
24. yaat Brahma Sree Krishna
[Gayatree-tantra insists that each letter should be contemplated upon: “Varnaanaam chintanam dhyaanam samyak paapapranaasanam]
There are 12 Gayatree Mantras contained in Mahaanaaraayana Upanishads (Dravida and Andhra Paathas). The Aaagamas and Tantras enlist many more Gaayatrees after the same pattern for other deities as they feel worship of any deity is not complete without a Gayatree. They are reproduced below for the convenience of meditation by the religious followers.
Purushasya vidma Sahasraakshasya Mahaadevasya dheemahi tannoe Rudrah prachoedayaat||
We worship the Purusha. For that sake we meditate upon Mahaadeva the omniscient. May that God Rudra, prompt us that meditation upon the Purusha.
[Purusha here signifies Paramaatman. Purusha contained in this Rudra Gaayatree implies that all deities may be invoked by a votary with the same mantra which is connected with his ishta or chosen divinity considering them as non-different from Supreme Being. Rudra is jnaanadaata, the power that rules knowledge and wisdom. As Sahasraaksha he is Viraat, myriad eyed and he is Purusha pervading all creation as described in Purushasookta. Note the use of the verb in first person plural seeking collective spiritual elevation and not for the elevation of the praying devotee alone! The supplication implied in the last verb prachoedayaat finally points out that the worshiper owes his or her approach to the God solely to the impulse granted by Him alone. In one context the first line reads Tatpuushaaya vidmahe which takes it to Gaayatreee meter; Purushasya vidma takes this mantra to Pura Ushnik meter. Whatever be the version this mantra is considered as a Gaayatree Mantra. The next mantra is just the repetition of the same mantra in the regular Gaayatree meter.]
Tartpurushaaya vidmahe Mahaadevaaya dheemahi | tannoe Rudrah prachoedayaat ||
May we realize the Supreme Being as Purusha. For that, may we meditate upon Mahaadeva and may God Rudra impel us to that meditation!
[Though this looks like a repetition of the previous Mantra this may be specific to Lord Siva whom we worship as Rudra. In the previous Mantra, Rudra means the power that rules the knowledge and wisdom but whereas here Rudra means Siva, the personal deity. Rudra means one who destroys our worries rutaat traayate iti Rudrah].
Tatpurushaaya vidmahe Vakratundaaya dheemahi | tannoe Dantih prachoedayaat ||
Let us know the Supreme Being! For that we meditate upon the Lord of the curved trunk Vakratundaa (Gajaanana)! May the Lord with the elephant face (Dantin) invigorate us!
[Here Gajaanana is employed in the worship of Saguna Brahman (Purusha) who is represented as elephant faced with bent trunk and an excellent tusk.]
Tartpurushaaya vidmahe | Suvarnapakshaaya dheemahi | tannnah Garudah prachoedayaat ||
May we know that Supreme Person. For that we meditate upon Suvarnapaksha, who has beautiful golden colored wings. May that Garuda invigorate us!
Sudarsanaaya vidmahe | Mahaajjwalllayaa dheemahi | tannah Chakrah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Sudarsana (the disc of Vishnu)! For that we meditate on Mahaajwaala (the great sacred blaze)! May Chakra (the Disc) invigorate us towards it!
Kaatyaayanaaya vidmahe | Kanyakumaari dheemahi| tannoe Durgih prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Durga who belongs to Katyaayini gotra (lineage). May we meditate on the resplendent maiden Katyaayini! May that Durga invigorate us towards the same!
[In the word Kanyakumaari, the word Kanya refers to Deeptimatee. Durgaa Gaayatree therefore has for its deity a particular sacred fire with which Durga is identified as per one of its commentators. Kanyakumaari means resplendent maiden. So she is the destroyer of evil. This is also a prayer to Paraasakti: “Oh Kanyakumaari, known as also Durgi, may we know Thee as most brilliant and accessible solely through devotion—Thou who is known for thy bestowal of enjoyment and liberation to Kaatyaayana (who was her father in one of her previous incarnations and so hailed as belonging to Kaatyaayana gotra)”. Durgi is the Vedic term for Durga]
Naaraayanaaya vidmahe Vaasudevaaya dheemahi | tannoe Vishnuh prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Naaraayana! For that may we devout ourselves on Vaasudeva! May Lord Vishnu impel us towards it!
[The word Nara is derived from the Sanskrit root Nri to lead. So Naraayana is Paramaatman, the leader of all creations. It is another epithet for Brahman. He is called Vaasudeva in his immanent aspect. That means he dwells in all creatures as Antaryaamin (inner controller). Vishnu signifies his all pervasiveness.]
Vaageeswaraaya vidmahe | Hayagreevaaya dheemahi | tannoe Hamsah Prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Vageeswara (Lord of Knowledge)! For that, we meditate on Hayagreeva. May Hamsa invigorate us towards it!
Hamsa hamsaaya vidmahe | Paramahamsaaya dheemahi | tannoe Hamsah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Hamsa! For that, may we meditate upon Paramahamsa! May Hamsa invigorate us towards it!
[A swan-like mythical bird, inhabiting the Maanasa Lake in the Himalayas is regarded as celestial being, symbolizing purity, freedom, wisdom, and salvation. In the Vedas it is the vehicle for the divine physicians, the Aswins. It is one of the incarnations of Vishnu in Kritayuga. It became the mount of Brahma, Sarasvati and Brahmaani in the puraanic period.].
Dhanurdharaayai vidmahe | Sarvasiddhyai cha dheemahi | tannoe Dharaa prachoedayaat ||
Let us know her as Dhanurdharaa (carrier of the bow)! For that we meditate upon her as Sarvasiddhyaa (One who is all successful)! May we invigorate Dharaa (one who bears all of us) towards that!
Nayagreeva! May Hamsa invigorate us towards it!
Tatpurushaaya vidmahe | Chakratundaaya dheemahi | tannoe Nandih prachoedayaat ||
Let us know the Divine personality! For that we meditate upon Chakratunda! May that Nandi invigorate us towards it!
[Here the epithets Purusha and Chakratunda refer to Nandi, the bull-mount of Lord Siva. Nandi is capable of assuming human form with his occult powers. He is called Chakratunda as he wielded the discus known as Chakra while Siva was engaged in battles with demons by grasping it with its mouth as per mythological stories in Puraanas]
Tatpurushaaya vidmahe | Mahasenaaya dheemahi | tannanoe Shanmukhah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know the Divine personality! For that we meditate upon Mahaasena! May Shanmukha impel us towards it!
[This prayer is to Kaartikeya, the supreme commander of the celestial army having six faces celebrated in Valmiki Ramayana. He is also popularly known as Murugan and Guruguha by Tamils.]
Vedaatmanaaya vidmahe! Hiranyagarbhaaya dheemahi | tannoe Brahma prachoedayaat ||
Let us know the Veda embodies as the four-faced Brahma! For that we meditate upon Hiranyagarbha! May that Brahman invigorate us towards it!
[This prayer is addressed to Brahma, one of the Trinities responsible for creation. The four-faced Brahmaa named as Hiranyagarbha (golden womb) and the reference to Vedic lore are but the expressions of Supreme Reality, the impelling spirit in all of us which influences our lives for acts meritorious or otherwise. Having realized the Reality we continually meditate upon that Eternal Truth day and night identifying it with ourselves. The four faces of Brahma represent the four Vedas-Rig, Yajur, Saama and Atharva. Hiranyagarbha is the greatest of all deities who has infinite powers. He was the first being created by God, Eeeshwara. He is Cosmic Intelligence. Sometimes the Puraanass deify Hiranyagarbha and raise him to the level of Eeswara. Then he is called Brahmaa, the Creator]
Chaturmukhaaya vidmahe Kamandaludharaaya dheemahi | tannoe Brahmaa prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Chaturmukha. For that we meditate upon Kamandaludhara (one who holds the sacred water pot in his hand. May Brahma invigorate us towards it!
[This Gaayatree is directed to Cosmic Intelligence glorified in Puranas as four-faced Brahama; one of the Puraanic Trinities responsible for Creation]
Vajranakhaaya vidmahe | Teekshnadamshtraaya dheemahi| tannoe Naarasimhah prachoedayaat||
Let us know Vajranakha! For that we meditate upon Teekshnadamshtra! May Narasimha invigorate us towards it!
[This is a prayer to Narasimha, one of the incarnations of Vishnu as Man-Lion God. He appeared with sharp eyes, teeth and diamond-hard nails to fulfill his mission to annihilate Hiranyakasipu, hearing to the prayers of his son Prahlaada who was an ardent devotee of Vishnu.]
Bhaaskaraaya vidmahe | Mahaadyutikaraaya dheemahi | tannoe Aaadityah prachoedayaat|| Let us know Bhaaskara! Let us know Bhaaskara! For that may we meditate upon Mahaadyutikaara, the great-light-generator! May Aaditya invigorate us towards it!
[Bhaaskara is Sun who is the giver of light. Sun is believed to be the son of the divine mother Aditi, naturalistically the limitless sky.]
Aadityaaya vidmahe| Sahasrakiranaaya dheemahi | tannoe Bhanuh prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Aditya. For that we meditate upon Sahasrakirana (one with thousand rays). May Bhaanu (Soorya) invigorate us towards it!
[Sunday is called Bhaanuvaara named after Bhaanu.]
Vaisvaanaraaya vidmahe | Laaleelaaya dheemahi | tannoe Agnih prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Viswaanara! For that may we meditate upon Laaleela! May Agni invigorate us towards it!
[Fire is called Vaiswaanara because it favors all men by helping their worship and cooking. He is often worshiped as Jaataveda a vyaahriti (attribute) of Brahman.]
Paavakaaya vidmahe| Saptajihvaaya dheemahi | tannoe Vaiswaanarah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Paavaka (Agni)! For that we meditate on Saptajihva (the Seven tongued)! May Vaiswaanara invigorate us towards it!
[Agni (sacrificial fire) is called Saptajihvah as he exhibits seven flames which are his tongues—Kaali, Karaali, Manojava, Sulohita, Sudhoomra-varna, Sphulingini and Visvaruchi; He is Paavaka as he burns all and the energy used to cook our food for digestion and nourishment.]
Mahaasoolinyai vidmahe Mahaadurgaayai dheemahi tannoe Bhagavatee prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Mahaasoolini! For that we meditate on Mahaadurga. May Bhagavati invigorate us towards it!
[Durga is popularly known as Bhagavati in Kerala. Her visage is rather frightening--naked with sharp fangs, outstretched tongue, gaunt features, sword in one hand, a cut head in another, serpents all round her. She is hailed as Durga in Bengal. In Hindu concept, female represents manifestation while male represents causation. Durga or Bhagavati represents Universal Manifestation. She is the combined Shakti (power) of all Gods hailed as Braahmi, Indraani, Kumaari, Vaishnavi, Narasimhi, Varaahi and Shivaani. ]
Subhagaayai vidmahe | Kamalamalinyai dheemahi | tannoe Gauree prachoedayaat ||
Let us know Subhagaa. For that we meditate on Kamalamalini. May Gauri invigorate us towards it!
[Gauri (the fair complexioned) represents sex and the life-giving aspects of Nature. Paarvati, the consort of Shiva is worshiped in two forms; as Gauri holding a child and as Kaali dancing amidst corpses. As Gauri, the goddess is depicted wearing a green sari, bedecked in sixteen love-charms (sola singar) and sitting demurely with her husband.]
Navakulaaya vidmahe | Vishadantaaya dheemahi | tannoe Sarpah prachoedayaat||
Let us know him as Navakula. For that we meditate on Vishadanta (poison toothed)! May Sarpa invigorate us towards it!
[This Gaayatree is chanted by snake worshipers]
Mahadevyai cha vidmahe | Vishnupatnyai cha dheemahi | tannoe Lakshmeeh prachoedayaat||
Let us know her as Maahaadevi (the great Goddess)! For that we meditate on her as Vishnupatni (Consort of Vishnu)! May Lakshmi invigorate us towards it!
[This Gaayatree is from the famous Sreesooktam.]
Raghuvamsyaaya vidmahe | Seetaavallbhaaya dheemahi | tannoe Raamah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know him as Raghu hailing from Raghuvamsa! For that we meditate upon him as Janakeevallbha (Husband of Jaanaki)! May Rama invigorate us towards it!
Daasarathaaya vidmahe ! Seetaaraamaaya dheemahi! tannoe Raamah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know him as Daasarathi (son of Dasaratha)! For that we meditate upon him as Seetaaraama! May Rama invigorate us towards it!
Sadaasivaaya vidmahe | Sahasraakshaaya dheemahi | tannah Saambah prachoedayaat ||
Let us know him as Sadaasiva! For that we meditate on him as Sahasraaksha! May Saamba invigorate us towards it!
(Lord Rudra is a vyaahriti (attribute) of Brahman. He is described as thousand eyed identifying him with Viraat Purusha in Purushasookta who is described as having thousand eyes.]
Kaalikaayai vidmahe | Smasaanavaasinyai dheemahi | tannoe Aghoraa prachoedayaat ||
Let us know her as Kaalika! For that we meditate upon her as Smasaana-vasin (dweller in the cremation ground)! May Aghoraa invigorate us towards it!
For all incarnations of Vishnu and for deities like Venkatesa, Vishnu Gaayatree can be effectively employed for meditation. Similarly for Devi worship Bhagavati or Durgaa Gaayatree can be employed. Also Beejamantras (like Panchaaksharee, Ashtaaksaharee, Dvaadasaakshasharee Shodashaaksharee etc.), or Dhyaana mantras of individual deities can be used as alternative for meditation where Gaayatrees are not known.
Aanjaneyaaya vidmahe | vaayuputraaya dheemahi | tannoe Hanumat prachoedayaat
Let us know Aanjaneya! For that we meditate upon the son of Vaayu! May Hanumaan invigoerate us towards it!
[The source of this Gaayatree is not known. But this Gayatree is chanted during the worship of Hanumaan. There may be many more Gayatrees on various deities employed during worship in individual temples. Mention is only made of Gayatrees found in the authoritative references given below. ]
It is surprising a number of Gaayatrees on deities celebrated only in Puraanas and not found in Vedas are found in Upanishads too. It is possible that Aaagama and Tantric worshipers have successfully transplanted Puraanic deities into Upanishads and also brought out specific Gaayatrees like Ganesha Gayatree, Hamsa Gayatree etc., besides adding their own forms of Gayatree not necessarily directed to Purusha in their own style. May be some of these Upanishads do not belong to Vedic period and were composed during Puraanic period like Ganapaty-atharva-seersha-upanishat, Kalisantarnoepanishat, Naaraayanoepanishat etc. These later Upanishads also dwell at length on Phalasrutis (material benefits derived by chanting or conducting fire sacrifices) which is not the style of Upanishads of the Vedic period. Vedic period Upanishads focus on Paschaattaapa (repentance), Dhyaana (meditation), and Prapatti or Saranaagati (surrender at the feet of the Lord yearning for Liberation from shackles of Samsaara (worldly struggles) to merge with the Supreme.
Over a period Hindus have developed fresh belief regarding the divine incarnation of God even though they claim to be not a religion based on beliefs. All human beings evolve by leading a highly righteous and pious life. They get enlightened and become noble souls and finally release the people from worldly bondage (samsara). They transform the society for a new world order. 19th and 20th century India saw several human beings declaring themselves to be either avatars or representatives of the Supreme Being or their devotees superimposing avatars on their preceptor or Guru: The main ones among them are:
1. Ramana Maharshi (1879-1950), TamilNadu; 2) Aurobindo Ghosh (1872-1950), Bengal; 3) A.C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada, West Bengal : 4) Krishnaprem Vairagi (Ronald Nixon Chltenham) (1898-1965) UK; 5. Satya Saibaba, Andhra Pradesh; 6) Ananadamayi Ma (1896-1983), West Bengal; 7. Ma Jnanananda 8) Osho Rajneesh (claimed him-self to be incarnation of Buddha). This concept started with Andal of Tamil Nadu; Swami Narayan of Gujarat; Sankara of Kaladi, Ramanuja of Tamil Nadu, Chaitanya Mahaprabhu of Bengal, Madhva of Udupi, Raghavendra of Karnataka; Basaveswara of Karnataka; Ramakrishna Paramahamsa of Bengal, Saibaba of Shirdi and others to whom temples have been built and worship is being done employing established modes of Hindu ritualistic worship. Who knows where this list will end to complete the pantheon of Hindu Gods and Goddesses. In South Indian Temples you see images of row of saints 63 Naayanmars in Siva Temples and 12 Azhwars in Vaishnava Temples being consecrated and worshiped.
It has become a fashion and necessity to add Gayatree mantra to every deity of modern creation worshipped in temples to give it a Vedic spiritual fervor for deities like Azhwars, Nayanmars, Swami Narayan, Saibaba, Bharatmata (deity of creation for Independence struggle) etc. They also receive customary Shoedasa Upachaara Pooja (16-steps Pooja rituals stipulated by Aagamas. In this art our modern priests are very innovative and creative, with their background of Aaagama and Tantric training. It may not be a surprise if you find soon a Gayatree Mantra for saints like Amritaamayi, the Hugging Mother too, even if a rishi is not found or created and whether it follows Chhandas rules or not, man-made temple being the only criterion. All those who are presently designated as Swamijis by their followers may be immortalized after death and find the consecration of their idols in temples followed by a suitable Gayatree mantra.
1) Swami Vimalananda, Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad, Ramakrishna Math, Chennai, India.
2) N.S. Anantarangacharaya, Principal Upanishads, Bengaluru, India.
3) Devdutt Pattanaik, Devi, Vakils and Pfeffer Co., Mumbai, India.
4) Swami Devarupananda, Mantrapushpam, Ramakrishna math, Mumbai, India.
5) S. K. Ramachandra Rao, Kalpatharu Research Academy, Shankarmutt, Bengaluru, India.