Monday, July 1, 2013




Sandhyaa means meeting and Vandanam means worship. This is the meeting of the mind with the Sun. Snadhyaavandana therefore means worship-meet similar to music-meet, social-meet etc. Sandhyaa  Vandanams are morning and evening prayers to be performed by the twice-born (Dwija) every day. In the evening we do not see the Sun and so the prayer is offered to the visible brightest element Light (Agni).  Both Sun and Fire are brightest visible Light on sky and Earth but both of them draw their energy from the Invisible Light of all Lights, Brahman. This worship-meet consists mainly aacahamana (sipping of water for internal purification), Praanaayaama (breath control with meditation), maarjana (sprinkling oneself with water), offering of water oblation to the Sun (arghya), Gaayatree Japa (meditation on Lord Savitar or Supreme Principle), and Upasthaana (reciting of mantras directed to the worship of the Sun in the morning and worship of Agni in the evening).  Similar prayer offered in the midday to Sun is called Maadhyaahneeka. Sandhyaavandana has many benefits for lengthening life span, disease control, revitalizing nerve centers of human body and promoting peace of mind as confirmed by scientific studies. Looking at Sun with hand aperture will give clear eye-sight throughout one's life without any disease. When a body is touched with a particular finger with cold water it gives fresh energy. When you touch navel and crest of head with all ten fingers it imparts benefit to various nervous systems and through it to the body and mind.  Health   benefits of Praanaayama are well established by Yogasaastra based on scientific studies. 

Various mantras employed during these prayers are found in Vedas, mainly in Taittareeya and Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishads.  These mantras essentially focus on  repentance for the past sins, self-purification externally as well as internally, meditation and  devotion directed to Supreme Being (Brahman) through the medium of  Sun  God , Fire God  and Varuna who are the aggregates (vyaahritis) of Brahman. Those who do not perform Sandhyaavandanam can regularly chant the Vedic mantras contained therein for atonement, control breath with Gaayatree mantra and do Upaasana (Worship) with Upasthaana mantras.  These Mantras contained in Mahaa Naaraayana Upanishad  for chanting can be found in the discourse: "Some Vedic Mantras used in Hindu Worships and Rituals on the Blog (February 2012) with meaning and explanations.

Gayaatree can be derived in Sanskrit as follows: "Gaayantam  traayate yasmaat Gaayatree iti abhideeyate"--whosoever sings Gaayatree is protected. Sings is not used here in the sense of singing. It means intoning or chanting the mantra with affection and devotion. 'Gaayatreem Chandasaam maataa"-- Gaayatree is the mother of all Vedic Mantras. This Mantra is called “Tripaada Gaayatree". It is three feet of eight syllable mantras. Thus Gaayatree is the essence of the Rigveda, Saamaveda and Yajurveda. Atharvaveda has its own Gaayatree.

We sin with our mind, speech and body. These sins must be washed away by performing rites with the same mind, speech and body. In Sandhyaavandanam we mutter the mantras with our mouth and even as we respect the Gaayatree, we meditate on it with mind, and in such rites as maarjana (sprinkling of water) we acquire bodily purity. Sandhyaavandana is Karmayoga, Bhaktiyoga and Jnaanayoga combined. It unites the paths of Karma, devotion and Knowledge.

If we critically review these prayers you will find in aachamana mantra, repentance mantra arghya mantra, upaasana mantra etc., only the names of Vishnu (Vyaapyate iti, all pervading aspect of Supreme Principle) and Vedic gods are found. No-where you find any reference to   Puraaanic Siva or other Puraanic deitees.  But Sandhyavandana is practiced by all dwijas who are followers of Vishnu, Siva as well as Sakta of modern days though sectarians in outlook.  Why it is so? Do we mean to say that only Pancharaatra followers propagated these Nityakarmas and others accepted it with an open mind?   Prayer also ends with Krishnaarpanamastu and not Sivaarpanamastu.  Here Krishna does not refer to incarnation of Vishnu but addresses Supreme Principle as Krishna meaning one who delights the world—krishnena satabaahunaa--Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad (MNU). Satabaahuna means one who has hundred arms meaning countless. Thus this refers to Purusha mentioned in Purushasookta who has his hands everywhere and in all things or Krishna who revealed his original form in Viswaroopaa (cosmic person).

Sandhyavandana Mantras are intended for Brahmanas and Dwijas. That does not mean it is intended for only for those who claim their caste as Brahmins by birth and as males. This karma is also performed by all those who undergo Upanayana ceremony—Kshatriyas, Vaisyas and also some ladies even, as seen in Kerala today. Here by Brahmana we should understand who are Brahmopaasakas or those who meditate upon Supreme Being called Brahman. Dwija means those who have undergone Upanayana Samskara and follow the Saastric injunctions by the Samskaara.   

Sandhyavandana is universal in approach to all traditions.  Through this ritual we pray for sins, pray for self-purification and meditate on Supreme principle as Saguna Brahman (visible Form like Soorya Agni etc.) and Paraasakti (visible and realizable energy). Supreme Principle is addressed in the ritual by the twelve names of Kesava, Naraayana, Maadhava, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusoodana, Trivikrama, Vaamana Sreedhara, Hrisheekesa, Padmanabha, Damoedara and Ananta, Soorya, Agni, and Varuna.  In Sankalpa we say Achyuta, Ananta and Govinda.  Ananta would mean all other names of Vishnu not mentioned. Paraasakti here refers to Bhoodevi (mother of all) who according to Sage Vasishta in Mahaanaaraayana Upanishad is Gayatree as well as Saavitree. The mantras essentially focus on Saguna Brahman and the Primordial Energy responsible for creation and the resulting five elements as His Vyaahritees (emanations). Sandhyaavandana is silent on the auspicious aspect (Siva) who is glorified later after creation. Saivites adopted this auspicious aspect of Supreme Brahman coming out of his form of Rudra (Rutaat traayate iti meaning one who relieves you from miseries) as Siva in Vyaktaavykta form (linga) and Vyakta form (human form as universal parent along with Parvati—Jagatah pitarau).   MNU mentions “sivoe may astu sadaasivoe”—I (Brahman) am the Sadaasiva described thus and denoted by Pranava (Om).

The central theme of Sandhyaavandana is Gaayatree Upaasana (Worship). It is believed each of the letters of the celebrated Gaayatree hymn consisting of 24 letters is represented by one of the twenty four forms of Vishnu (the aspect of Supreme Brahman responsible for our sustenance). While performing the daily ritual of Sandhya elaborately, it is customary to recite the names of these twenty-four forms and consecrate the twenty-four spots in the body (cf. Tantra-saara, 1, 43, 44). But in normal practice we restrict to first twelve names which come from the four Vyuhas (primary emanatory forms of Vishnu). Each  of the four Vyuhas or primary emanatory forms of Vishnu--Vaasudeva, Sankarshana, Aniruddha and Pradyumana) bring forth three other forms, which are regarded as Vyuhaantara or secondary emanations—Kesava, Naaraayana, Maadhava, Govinda, Vishnu, Madhusoodana,  Trivikrama, Vaamana, Sreedhara, Hrisheekesa, Padmanaabha, Daamoedara (These are the twelve names used  normally in  purification of the body and Arghya--offering water oblation, ritual). The four weapons of Vishnu symbolize the universal process relevant to the divinity; Lotus symbolizes Creation (srishti beejam tathaa padmam); discus   Preservation (Chakram sthiti-nibhandanam); Mace  symbolizes dissolution (gadaa samhaaram) and Conch emancipation of the soul from bondage (Sankham mukti nibhandanam).           

 The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be ignited that is what the sage Viswaamitra conveys in his Gaayatree mantra by the word prachoedayaat. Let us all pray to the Lord so  that He will have mercy upon us,  so that the glow  of the mantras is never extinguished in us and that it will keep burning brighter and brighter sharpening our Intellect.  

[It is hoped that this introduction and following  explanations and approximate translation of Sanskrit Texts will help the young mind undergoing Upanayanam ceremony to realize the importance of these mantras which are spiritually focused with scientific significance for better health and calm mind prescribed under daily duties (nitya karmas). Those of you who know Tamil can be benefited by reading the elaborate description given in under Sandhyaavandanam. For those who do not undergo Upanayana ceremony this is a practical guide for Brahmoepaasana, meditation on Brahman, the Supreme principle.]



1.      Wash your feet, rinse your mouth, have kumkum or namam on forehead and stand to pray facing East. Then  Chant the following: “ apavitrah pavitroe vaa sarva avastham gatoepivaa | Yas smaret pundareekaakshaam sabaahyaa-bhyantarahs suchihi”

[A person however pure or impure he may be in whatever situation he may be gets purified by meditating on the Lotus Eyed One]

2.      Do Aachamanam (sipping the water after chanting Mantra)—Keep the right hand in a cup form; hold water poured from the spoon from left hand; drink after chanting each mantra (3 mantras)—a) Om Achyutaaya Namah (sip) b) Om Anantaaya Namah (sip)  c) Om Govindaaya Namah (sip).   Touch the various parts of the body with the wet fingers chanting each mantra as indicated : “ A) Om Kesavaaya Namah (right cheek with the thumb); B) Om Narayanaaya  Namah (left cheek with the thumb); C) Om Maadhavaaya  Namah (right eye with ring finger);  D) Om Govindaaya Namah (left eye with the ring finger); E) Om Vishnave Namah (right nose with index finger);  F) Om Madhusoodanaaya Namah (left nose with index finger);  G) Om Trivikramaaya Namah (right ear with little finger);  H) Om Vaamanaaya  Namah (left ear with little finger) ;  I) Om Sridharaaya Namah  (right shoulder with middle finger); J) Om Hrisheekesaaya Namah (left shoulder with middle finger) K) Om Padmanaabhaaya Namah (belly button with four fingers leaving the thumb) L) Om Daamodaraaya Namah. (top of head with all fingers).
[Touching with fingers moistened with cold water electrifies various nerve centers (Nadis) in the body]

3.      Do Praanaayaama: This is breathing exercise and chanting. Close the left nostril with little finger and ring finger and release the breath (exhale); then close the right nostril   firmly with thumb; breathe in from the left nostril. Close both the nostrils and hold the breath, close the mouth and chant the following mantra—“Om  Bhuh, Om Bhuvah, Om Suvah, Om Mahah, Om Janah, Om Tapah, Ogum Satyam, Om Tatsavitur Varenyam, Bhargoe Devasya Dheemahi Dheeyoe Yoe Nah Prachoedayaat Om Aapoe Jyoetee Rasoe Amritam Brahma Bhoor Bhuvas Suvaroem”.
(Please remember this mantra and Aachamana mantra as these will be repeated many times).

[Earth (Bhooh) is having Supreme Lord (Brahman) as the inner controller of all beings. The six other spiritual worlds Bhuvah, Suvah, Mahah, Janah, Tapah and Satyam are also having Supreme Lord as inner controller. We meditate upon the worshipful prowess of Lord Savitr, the cause of this Universe. Savitr prompts our intellect. Water, light, the taste, the liberated souls are all nothing but Supreme Lord alone. The three Worlds Bhooh, Bhuvah and Suvah are also OM or The Supreme Lord Brahman.]

[Systematic breath control following Praanaayaama contributes towards long life and healthy living; it cures diseases and purifies mind.]

4.      Sankalpa (Religious resolution to do the ritual)—“Sri Bhagavad aajnyayaa Sri bhagavad kainkarya roopam Sriman Narayana preetyartham Praatha Sandhyaam Upaasishye. (This is for the morning prayer).,

[As ordained by the Lord I undertake to perform my morning prayer in Lord’s service, and to the  pleasure of the Supreme Lord Narayana}

5.      Please chant and with your right hand sprinkle water on head: “Om aapoehishthaa mayoebhuvah—taana oorje dadhaatana—maheranaaya chakshase—yoe vas sivatamoe rasah || tasya bhaajayate ha nah—usateeriva maatarah—tasmaa arangamaamavah”.  Next chant the following sprinkling water on the feet “yasya kshayaaya jinvatha”(what juice you seek to be imperishable). Then chant the following sprinkling water on body: “aapoe janayataa cha nah” (Oh! Water deity! Make us worthy of birth to be good!) and “Om bhoor bhuvahs suvah”.(the three worlds  are vyaahritis of Brahman.)

[Oh Deities of Waters!  You are enchanting, great and keepers of health in every individual.  Please give us food to radiate our life’s vital forces. Please make the same Lord who is auspicious and blissful towards you, friendly towards us in this very life. Oh Water divines! We are craving to attain that Supreme Principle whom you adore. Oh Divine Waters! Make us worthy of attaining the knowledge of that Brahman!  Food is essential for Gross body to nourish; Knowledge is essential for subtle body to nourish. With your auspicious liquid bestow all benefits for body and soul]

6.      Then hold a spoonful of water in the right hand cup and chant: “Sooryascha maamanyuscha  manyu patayascha manyu kritebhyah | paapebhyoe rakshantaam—yadraatryaa paapa makaarsham—manasaa vaachaa hastaabhyaam–padbhyaam udarena sisnaa—raatris tada valumpatu—yat kincha duritam mayi-idam aham maamruta yoenow |  sooryae jyoetisha juhomi swaahaa || (so chanting drink the water).

[May the Sun, Anger and the Guardians of Anger guard me from the sins resulting from anger! May the night efface completely whatever sin I have committed during the last night by thought, word, hands, feet, stomach, and the genital organ! Further, whatever sinful deed has been committed by me all that and myself I offer as an oblation into the Supreme Light represented by the Sun, the source of Immortality. Hail the Fire God!

7.      Do Aachamana as in 2.

8.      Chant the following: “Dadhikraavannoe akaarisham-jishnoer asvasya vaajinah-surabhinoe mukhaakarat-prana aayoogamshi taarishat—aapoehishthaa mayoe bhuvah—taana oorje dadhaatana-maheranaaya chakshase | yoevas sivatamoe rasah | tasya bhaajayateha nah—maheranaaya chakshase | tasmaa arangamaamavo yasya kshayaaya jinvatha | aapoejana yathaachanah” and sprinkle the water on body as before. Then sprinkle water on body chanting: “Om Bhoor bhuvahs suvah”. Then take water in the cup of the hand and chant: Drupadaadiva munchatu drupadaadi venmumuchaanah svinnasnaatve-malaadiva snaatvee-malaadiva | pootam-pavitrena-eva aajyam | aapas-suddhantu mainasah || so chanting releaase the water in your hand on the right side of the floor. (This last  mantra is omitted by many)

[I offer my prayers to the Supreme Lord who is always victorious, Omni-present, ever      interested in protecting his devotees and occupying the entire Universe. Please purify our faces meaning give us trouble free long life. It is customary to offer curds as oblation to fire in Vedic rites. For this Agni or God of Fire is propitiated as Brahman or Supreme principle. May that Lord make our faces pleasant and give us long life!]

[Just as one who is tethered to the log of wood is released from the bondage, just as the sweating body is relieved of sweat by waters, just as ghee is purified by the sacred Kusa grass (ring shaped grass called pavitram), we pray to you to relieve us from all impurities from within and purified. This mantra is omitted by some.]  

9.      Arghyam (water oblation)--Do Praanaayaama as in 3  and get up. Then join both the hands and hold water in both the hands and chant Gayatri mantra: “Om Bhoor Bhuvas Suvah, Om Tatsavitur Varenyam, Bhargoe Devasya Dheemahi, Dheeyoe Yoe Nah Prachoedayaat”.  Then release the water downwards looking at the Sun. (To hold water on both hands first pour water from left hand holding the vessel  on to  the right hand cup maximum it can hold,  then keep the vessel down and join the left with the right; then evenly distribute the water to both cups of hands. (In olden days they used to stand in the river and get water to both hands from the river or tank). By this act you are offering your prayers through the medium of water to Sun. This has to be done three times. If you are late to do your morning prayers you have to do this fourth time as indicated in 10 below.

10.  Late performance-Do one Praanaayaama. Then chant “Sri bhagavad aajnyayaa sri bhagavat kainkarya roopam Sriman naaraayana preetyartham kaalaateeta praayaschitta artham tureeya arghya pradaanam karishye’’ so saying repeat the Arghya as done in 9 above.
[As per the command of the Lord and in His service and to please Narayana, I offer this fourth additional water oblation for not keeping up to the time schedule (repentance for being late to the worship)]

11.  Tarpana—chanting the mantra “Asaavaadityo Brahma”* sprinkle water on your body. Then Make a cup on your right hand, pour water from a vessel from your left hand each time and release water from right hand chanting each mantra after the word “Tarpayaami”—Kesavam tarpayaami (Release water); Narayanam tarpayaami; Maadhavam tarpayaami; Govindam tarpayaami; Vishnum tarpayaami; Madhsoodanam tarpayaami; Trivikramam tarpayaami; Vaamanam tarpayaami; Sreedharam tarpayaami; Hrusheekesam tarpayaami; Padmanaabham tarpayaami; Daamodaram tarpayaami. (These are the same twelve names of Vishnu you chanted for Aachamana).

[Tarpana means satisfying. Various deities mentioned in the Mantra are being satisfied with water oblation called Tarpana.]
[* This Lord Soorya is Brahma alone]

12.  Gaayatri Japam—Do one Praanaanaayamya as in 3 sitting. Then chant “Aaasana mantrasya prithuvyaah Meruprishtha rishih sutalam chandah sri koormoe devata--koormaasane viniyogah | pruthvi tvayaa dhrutaa lokaa devi tvam vishnunaa dhrutaa | tvam cha dhaaraya maam devi pavitram kurucha aasanam ||”.  

[With this mantra you offer seat to Gayatree on sacred grass spread out invoking Lord Koorma to provide the comfortable seat who offered seat to Mount Meru for ocean churning in the Puraanas]

Then sprinkle water on the seat and sit down for prayer.  Do three Praanaayamya as in 3 and say: “Sri bhagavad aajnyayaa bhagavat kainkarya roopam sriman naaraayana preetyartham pratah sandya Gayatreemantra japam karishye” “Pranavasya rishibrahma devee gaayatree chandah paramaatma devata anushtup chandah |” atha dhyaanam; Fold your hands and say: “Arka mandala madhyastham sooryakoti samaprabham | brahmaadi sevya paadaabjam naumi brahma ramaa sakham”. After this do Gayatri pranayama as in 3 for 10 times.  Then chant: “aayaatvitviti anuvaakasya vaamadeva rishih  anushtup chandah Gayatree devata, Gayatree aavaahane viniyogah ||” (By this mantra you are inviting the Goddess Gayatri and others). Then with folded hands chant: “Aaayaatu varadaa devee aksharam brahma samitam | gayatreem chandasaam maatedam brahma jushasva nah || Oejoeci, sahoeci, balamaci, bhraajoeci, devaanaam dhaama naamaaci, visvamaci, visvaayuh, sarvamaci, sarvasayuh, abhi bhoorome gaayatreem aavaahayami, savitreem aavaahayaami, sarasvateem aavaahayaami || “saavitryaah rishih visvaamitrah gaayatree chandah savitaa devata” “yoe devas savitaa asmaakam dhiyoe dharmaadi gocharah | Prerayet tasya yad bhargah tad varenyam upaasmahe ||

Gayatri Japa Mantra: Om bhoor bhuvahs suvah, om tat savitur varenyam, bhargoe devasya dheemahi, dheeyoe yoe nah prachoedayaat—Close your eyes and chant this mantra 10 or 28 or 108 times as time permits holding the knot of the holy thread with your thumb and index finger. This is the main Mantra.

[Oh Goddess Gaayatree!  Thou art the essence of strength.  Thou art patience or the subduing power. Thou art physical capacity. Thou art splendor. Thou art the abode of gods. Thou art the celebrated name.  Thou art the insentient universe. Thou art the full span of life or the Lord of all.  Thou art every living thing. Thou art the life span of all. Thou art the vanquisher of all that is hostile to us. Thou art Truth denoted by Pranava, I invoke Gaayatree into my heart. I invoke Saavitree. I invoke the prosodies (Chandas). I invoke Rishis and the gods. I invoke the splendor of all gods.  Please come and receive our prayers.]

13.  Do Praanaayaama as in 3 once. “Sri bhagavad aajnyayaa sri bhagavat kainkarya roopam sriman Narayana preetyartham praatah sandhya upasthaanam karishye”--(This is farewell to Gayatri Goddess). Stand up and with folded hands chant: “Uttame sikhare devi bhoomyaam parvata moordhani | brahmanebhyoe hyanu jnaanam gaccha devi yatha sukham”.

“Mitrasya charshanee-dritah snavoe devasya | saanasim satyam chitra-sravastamam | mitro janaan-yaatayati prajaanan mitoroe-daadhaara  prithaveemuta dyaam | mitrah –krishteera-nimishaabhi-chashte satyaaya havyam ghrita-vadvi-dhema |  prasa-mitra martoe astu pra-yasva-anyasta aaditya sikshati vratena | na hanyate na jeeyate tvoe toe nainamagam-hoe asnoety-antitoe na dooraat ||

[Oh ResplendentGaayatree! Please bid good-bye to those Brahmins who constantly worship you. Then depart from the top of the sacred hills as per your comfort and convenience]

[I sing the glory of the Lord, who protects the enlightened intellectuals, who is sportive, protects all, embodiment of Vedas, who gives happiness time in and time out. That Supreme Lord directs all souls according to their sins and virtues; He is responsible to give them knowledge and divine status indicated by the non-winking of the eyes and protects them. We offer the melted butter oblations to that Lord. During cataclysm He consumes everybody. Those who worship that Lord with fasting and rituals they are provided with plenty of food for thought (experience of Brahman) and wealth (bliss). Such blessed persons are not troubled by God of Death and are also not defeated by words etc. and enjoy the ever-lasting grace of the Lord.]

14.  Then do a series of salutations to various deities: “Sandhyaayai namah; Saavitryai namah; Gaayatryai namah, Sarasvatyai namah, sarvaabhyoe devataabhyoe namoe namah, kaamoekarsheen namoe namah”

15.  You are standing facing East. So salute the deity guards of all directions, space, sky, earth starting with East. “Praachyai  disae namah (East), Dakshinaayai  disae  nama (South), Prateechyai disae namah (West), Udeechyai  disae namah (North), Oordhvaaya  namah (Space), Adharaaya  namah (Below ground), Antarikshaaya namah (Sky), Bhoomyai namah (Mother Earth), Vishnave namah (Lord Vishnu)”

16.  “Sankha chakra gadhaa paane dvaarakaa nilaya achyuta | Govinda pundaree-kaaksha raksha maam saranaagatam”-- chanting this mantra do namaskaram prostrating on floor touching all parts of the body and then say your abhivaadana mantram.
[Obeisance to the Lord of Dwaraka who presents himself carrying his weapons of distinction conch, disc and mace; Obeisance to lotus eyed Lord Govinda.]

“Abhivaadaye Aatreya Archanaanasa Syaavaasva trayaarsheya pravaranvitah Aatreya gotrah Aapasthambha sootrah Yajus saakaaha-adhyaayee sri Vijay saraman naamaaham asmi bhoh”.

Then do aachamanam twice as in 2 and say “sarvam sri Krishnaarpanam astu” . Go round in circum-ambulation chanting: “Sriranga mangala manim karunaa nivaasam sri venkatadri sikharaalaya kaala megham | sri hasti saila sikharoejvala paarijaatam srisam namaami sirasaa yadusaila deepam”. (This is final salutation to Lord Vishnu whois represented by Lord Ranganatha of Srirangam and Lord Venkateswara of Tirupati.  Abhivaadana Mantra: “Abhivaadaye Aatreya, Aarchanaanasa Syaavaasva,  Trayaarsheya pravaraanvitah Aatreya gotrah Aaapastambha sootrah Yajussaakhaadhyaayee Srinivasa sarman naamaham asmibhoh”

[I am Srinivasan belonging to Aatreya Gotra, bowing to you; I follow Aaapasthambha sootra of Yajur veda. The devotee thus declares his lineage of three sages giving out his name. The example is for one who belongs to the lineage of Sage Atri. Each one should know his mantra as given at the time of Thread Ceremony, Upanayana.]