AUM Bhur Bhuvah Svaha
Tat Savitur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dhimahi
Dhiyo yo Nah Prachodayaat
'We meditate on that light of the luminous God Savitur, who is well known in the Vedas, who is the inspirer of all beings, their inner Self, who is the creator of the universe. We mediate on that adorable light which is the Self of the Supreme Lord of the universe, adored by all as the sole object of worship. It is the giver of knowledge and destroyer of ignorance. It is the light of the Supreme Brahman itself.
May that light enlighten us & dispel our ignorance'
There is a famous ancient prayer in Sanskrit that first appears in the Rig Veda (iii /62/10) called the Gayatri Mantra that almost every Hindu knows. Gayatri is actually the name for a Sanskrit poetical meter that contains three lines of eight syllables each, and is a 24-syllable mantra ( hymn), that is a confluence of 24 Beej Aksharas ( letters ) which are believed to empower the worshipper's consciousness. Man can attain greatness by developing his dormant powers through reciting the Gayatri mantra as it imparts great spiritual wisdom. The regular japa ( recitation ) of a mantra reduces restlessness of the mind, brings restraint in life, and works wonders in developing concentration and memory. This most scientific prayer is also known to cure several diseases within one's body, since it is known to have a profound effect upon all 24 organs as well as pressure points. The ancient Rishis devised a method for proper reception of the Gayatri mantra to our psycho-spiritual bodies so that we advance both materially and spiritually. It is believed that the Gayatri mantra, when chanted properly, has different effects on different energy centres of the body, known as Chakras, by awakening all 24 Chakras enriching them with 24 benefits. The Goddess Gayatri is said to be the quintessence of the Vedas, believed to be the storehouse of all Divine Knowledge and the most ancient scriptures known to mankind. The Vedas are widely considered to be the source of all true knowledge, the word 'Veda' itself meaning ' knowledge '. The Devi ( Goddess ) is ' Sarvadevata Swarupini ' and 'Sarvamantra Swarupini ', or an embodiment of all the Devas ( Gods ) and Devis ( Goddesses ) and all Mantras. There are, therefore, many Gayatri mantras, attached to most of the Hindu pantheon of Gods, but this particular one is the oldest and most well known of all Gayatri mantras. There is a Gayatri for Ganesha, one for Shiva, one for Durga, one for Vishnu, one for Lakshmi, and so on. Most people are unaware of this fact and when Hindus talk about the Gayatri mantra they mean the mantra shown above, which is addressed to Savitr, the Sun God or Lord Surya.
The first line: Aum bhur bhuvah svah, that is always recited at the beginning, is not actually part of the Gayatri mantra. It is a special utterance called Vyahriti that has been added to the beginning of this famous Gayatri. This Vyahriti is important in and of itself and we will discuss it after we have explained the basic Gayatri mantra. The three lines of this Gayatri mantra are:
1. tat-savitur varenyam = That ( Supreme Being) Savitur the Sun worthy of paying obeisance to
2. bhargo devasya dhimahi = The light of the Devata ( God ) we should meditate upon
3. dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat = May our intellect be directed towards the right path
Savitr: the Sunrise
The Devata associated with this Gayatri mantra, as we mentioned, is the Sun God Shri Aditya or, Savitr (the second word of this mantra). The more common name for the Sun is Surya. Generally 'Surya' is the name for the Sun while it is above the horizon and Savitr is the Sun as it is rising and setting, just below the horizon. There is a great metaphor in Hinduism that when understood explains a lot about the Hindu way of seeing the universe. The metaphor is: 'the sun equals light, which equals knowledge, which equals consciousness.' This metaphor applies not only to the Gayatri mantra, but also to the design of temples and homes, and to details such as why we circumbulate from right to left and offer incense and lamps in a clockwise direction.
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,' the Divine Cosmic Being. According to the metaphor mentioned above, 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 the Cosmic Divine energy in this world. Lord Surya is a Divine form of the Supreme Being which we humans can see with our eyes. There are two verbs in the Gayatri mantra, 'Dhimahi' and 'Prachodayaat'. Dhimahi means, 'let us meditate.' So, ' let us meditate on the light (bhargo) of the sun which represents the Divine Being.' This is the basic meaning of the first part of the Gayatri mantra.
The second part is also straight forward. The verb Prachodayaat literally means , ' it should propel' but in more poetic language we can translate it as ' let it inspire.' Dhiyah is ' thoughts,' so dhiyo yo nah prachodayaat means, ' may our thoughts be inspired ' So the most literal meaning of the Gayatri mantra is, 'Let us meditate on the light of the sun which represents Divine Cosmic energy, and may our thoughts be inspired by that Divine light.'
As with most things that form a part of Sanatan Dharmic thought, the Gayatri mantra is also personified as the Goddess, Gayatri Devi. She is the wife of Lord Brahma the Creator of the three worlds, and is meditated upon with five faces,which represent the five Vedas, and is known as PanchMukhi ( five faced ) Gayatri or VedaMata ( Mother of the Vedas ), She is the embodiment of the Supreme Brahman. The five faces also represent the five elements (pancha tatvas) earth, water, air, fire, sky ( Prithvi, Jala, Vayu, Agni, Aakasha). She has 10 hands carrying the five ayudhas: shankha, chakra, kamala, varada, abhaya, kasha, ankusha, ujvala utensil, rudraksh mala. Gayatri is depicted seated on a lotus. She is Savitri, Saraswati and Gayatri - the Trinity of Shakti or Cosmic Power. Gayatri is Annapurna, the Mother, and the sustaining Force that animates all life.
The Gayatri mantra is traditionally whispered into the right ear of a young Brahmin boy in the thread ceremony known as Yagnopavitam or Upanayanam, which is one of the rites of passage followed by Brahmins. Yagnopavitam has three threads (actually only one thread, folded three times and tied together) each consisting of three strands. These threads represent
Gayatri (Goddess of mind), Saraswati (Goddess of speech) and Savitri (Goddess of deed). In addition, this mantra is repeated during daily prayers performed by many Hindus three times a day, while facing the sun: at sunrise, at noon and at sun set. It is also common to recite the Gayatri as part of a havan, or to recite it in a collective way in temples or homes. During Yagna and Havans also, Gayatri is chanted to produce positive sound energy which interacts with the energy of the heat being produced by the flames, so to produce desirable effects.
The first part of the Gayatri mantra, 'Aum bhur bhuvah svaha', which we mentioned at the beginning as not technically a part of the mantra, is called Vyahriti or the 'great utterance.' This mantra is repeated not only in conjunction with the Gayatri mantra, but also separately during havans or fire ceremonies. The word Aum is an auspicious sound made at the beginning of many prayers, which represents the Cosmic Being. 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 the Divine Supreme Being) 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 is Bhur means where we are – Bhu-loka – the world of our experience.
The technical explanation of Vyahriti has to do with subtle practices of meditational yoga. This earth is simply one of many planes of existence. In fact, above this earth according to Hindu philosophical thought there are six higher planes, heavens as it were. Including this earth, there are seven planes up (heavens) and seven planes down, or underworld regions below this earth. The earth is in the middle. If you have ever heard the expression, ' seventh heaven' , this is simply a reference to the Hindu philosophy of heavens. The seventh heaven is the highest heaven. The first three of these planes starting with the earth are called bhur, bhuvah and svah. The utterance bhur bhuvah svah, therefore, refers to the first three subtle planes of existence that may be reached in meditation by a yogi.
Gayatri mantra is generally thought of as being amongst the highest and most powerful mantras of all. In the Bhagavad Gita, Lord Krishna had proclaimed to Arjuna - 'Among all the mantras, I am the Gayatri '. The Upanishads also contain several references to this sacred mantra, claiming it to be based on the Supreme Truth. This mantra occupies a unique place in that it has both the power of mantra and of prarthana (prayer). Gayatri is a very sacred mantra, and if chanted wholeheartedly with devotion, one never suffers nor faces any difficulites in life.
Swami Vivekanand: Only that thing should be asked for from a king which befits his dignity. The only thing fit to pray from God is wisdom. God grants wisdom only to those with whom he is pleased. Wisdom makes a man go on the right path. Man gets all sorts of happiness by Sat Karmas. Gayatri Mantra is a Mantra for wisdom and hence it is called the crown of all Mantra.