Wednesday, 1 May 2013

The Gāyatrī Mantra

It intrigues me that every online blog has a variant interpretation of the mighty गायत्री मन्त्र, as do scholars. Perhaps it's poetics. You're welcome to relate to a text the way you wish, but there is an underlying semantic based on grammar which should be taken into account. The provenance of the verse is the Ṛgveda itself, 3.62.10 and it is prefaced by ॐ and the  mahāvyāhṛtis भूः भुवः and स्वः as described in the Taittareya Āraṇyaka (2.11.1-8)*.

The मन्त्र:

ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः 
तत्स॑वि॒तुर्वरे॑ण्यं॒ भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑ धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥

The translation:

We meditate on that most excellent radiance of god Savitā, may he rouse forth/impel our  thoughts/intelligence/prayers

The विग्रह:

ॐ भूः भुवः स्वः 

तत् । सवितुः । वरेण्यम् । भर्गः । देवस्य । धीमहि ।
धियः । यः । नः । प्रऽचोदयात् ॥
The अन्वय:

ॐ भूः भुवः स्वः

देवस्य सवितुः तत् वरेण्यम् भर्गः धीमहि 
यः नः  धियः प्रऽचोदयात् ॥

The analysis:

सवितुः देवस्य - genitive singular of सवितृ/देव of that god Savitāgenitive, masculine, singular 

तत् - that, the - neuter accusative, singular (agrees with भर्गः)

वरेण्यम् - to be wished for, most excellent, desirable; accusative gerundive वृ (adjective for भर्गः)

भर्गः - radiance, lustre, splendour, effulgence; accusative, neuter, singular**

धीमहि - may we reflect on, meditate on; optative, 1st person plural of धी 4Ā

यः -  which/who;  Hindi जो (refers to the god Savitā

प्रचोदयात् - will/shall/may [he] incite, urge, instigate, rouse forth; optative 3rd person singular of प्रचुद् 1P
(agrees with Sun)

नः - our; genitive plural, personal pronoun

धियः - insights, religious thoughts, prayers, devotion; accusative plural of धी (fem noun)  
[धियः is in the accusative plural because it is the object of the verb प्रचुद्]

भूः भुवः स्वः These mantric utterances are given various meanings. The table below from elaborates:

**भर्गः - appears in most modern dictionaries as a masculine substantive. However it is not attested as such till the Śatapatha Brāhmaṇa. In the Ṛgvedic context it is a neuter, 'bhargas'. I'd like to thank Dr. Renate Söhnen Thieme for this helpful information.


Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anurag Sharma said...

Just one important thing about this Maṅtra-the uninitiated should not chant Bhūr,Bhuvaḥa,Svaha and Dīkṣā is necessary for this. The reason is that the Maṅtra is then going to the three Lokas and the Gāyatrī Dīkṣā is required. However, the Maṅtra should be started with 'Tatsavitur' and is the highest prayer to the Sun God and excellent for the Sun/ Ravi Graha in the Vedic horoscope.

Subhash said...

Thank you,Rohini, for this excellent analysis of the Gayatri Mantra. It is not easy to find a good analysis of the grammatical structure of the mantra. I just have one question: I am not able to reconcile the use of the neuter word "tat". You mention that it goes with bhargaH - how? I see no other word in neuter gender in the shloka. Please clarify. Thanks a lot for your wonderful blog. There is so much to learn from it.

Subhash said...

Dear Rohini,
I just checked the dictionary by Apte and it shows bhargas as neuter - which clarifies my doubt. Thus 'tat' goes with bhargaH since bhargaH is (2,1 - accusative).

Nithin.S said...

The Gayatri Mantra is indeed one of the most beautiful and profound Mantras. The attachment of the three Vyahritis is very significant as it, explains the real significance of the nature of God/aspect of God being worshipped.

The Bhu-loka refers to Gross/Physical Universe. The Bhuva and Suvar Lokas are Subtle Universes. In Hindu Cosmoslogy, there are 7 Lokas. The Lowest three- Bhu, Bhuvah, Svah refer to Gross and Subtle Universes.There belong to Karya Brahman(The Manifested Universe) The Highest three Lokas- Janah, Tapah and Sat loka are under Karya Brahman (the Unmanifested Prakriti, the Source). Then, the Mahat Loka that connects the 3 higher lokas with 3 lower lokas. Hiranyagarba or First born is called as Mahat and he exists in MahatLoka. Hiranyagarba is also called as Karya Brahman or Satya Brahman. He is called as first born because from the Unmanifested Prakriti, it is Hiranyagarbha who is born first. And from him all the subtle and gross universes are born. Hence, Hiranyagarba/Satya Brahman is described in Brihdaranyaka Upanishad as having the 3 Vyahritis-Bhu, Bhuva and Svah as his Limbs. Further, the Brihadaranyaka Upanishad and Isa Upanishad Identifies Satya Brahman/Hiranyagara as the "Purusha/Person" who is in the Surya Mandal, who exists as the Solar Deity i.e. Surya/Pushan.

With this, background, the Gayatri Mantra should be understood as the Prayer to the Hiranyagarba/Satya Brahman/Mahat who exists as the Solar Deity (Savitr)and who creates the subtle and gross Universes.

The Word "Dhimahi" may mean "Meditate" or "To Attain". Both are same, as Isha Upanishad explains, one attains Hiranyagarba by performing Devata Upasana (Meditation) of the Hiranyagara who exists as the Sun.

Hence, a person who wishes to travel the Devayana-Northern Path after death and attain Hiranyagarbha, is worshiping the Hiranyagarbha who exists as the Savitr-the Solar Deity and requesting the Solar deity to direct his Mind i.e. lead his Subtle body towards Hiranyagarbha/Mahat.

So, the use of 3 Vyahritis explain beyond doubt that the Gayatri Mantra is not just a prayer to the Physical Sun, but instead a prayer to Hiranyagarba/Satya Brahman who manifests as the Sun in the Gross Universe and in the right eye in an Individual's Gross body, who further exists as the Intution/Divine Light behind every thoughts and hence, guide a person to shed the Limitations of the gross and subtle bodies and attain Him (i.e. Attain Hiranyagarba).

DhanRaj said...

I see the inclusion of grammatical structure in your explanation useful and unique among blogs.
However, I could not understand the explanation of "Prachodayaat" as you have mentioned it 1P (meaning class 1 dhaatu Parasmaipadi )optative (potential mood) 3rd person singular but class 1 dhaatu does not terminate with YAAT in Potential mood 3rd person singular. Kindly explain.

Unknown said...

Hello Rohini
Thanks for a useful analysis.
Could it be that dhImahi and pracodayAt are actually not optatives, but in fact examples of the rare arcane benedictive?
There are some helpful notes on the Sanksrit heritage site about this eg
on dhImahi here
on pra + root cud;c=1;font=roma
Obviously there is no absolutely right and wrong about these - I thought to share in case its of interest!
Best wishes

Prof Nirmal Kumar Maity said...

Wonderful. Now I got the clear meaning. I did not have idea that 'bhargah' can be muter gender and it is related to 'Varenyam'.
Such analysis for the Geeta and other scriptures are necessary.

Anonymous said...

my question is - why in this Great Mantra we have gerundive of var-dhaatu VARELNYAM instead of VARYAM?

Unknown said...

So vivid analysis. It helps to get complete sense and meaning of the hymn. Same time grammar is also learnt.

Unknown said...

Unknown29 July 2020 at 19:41
So vivid analysis. It helps to get complete sense and meaning of the hymn. Same time grammar is also learnt.

Anonymous said...

Very good info on DevayAna :

A Regular Guy said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
A Regular Guy said...

गायत्री वा ईदं सर्वं भूतं
यदिदं किं च वाग्वै गायत्री वाग्वा
इदं सर्वं भूतं गायति च त्रायते च ॥ ३.१२.१ ॥
gāyatrī vā īdaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ
yadidaṃ kiṃ ca vāgvai gāyatrī vāgvā
idaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ gāyati ca trāyate ca || 3.12.1 || chāndogyopaniṣad

bhargo devasya dhīmahi
dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt ||

The term that is causing me pause is pracodayāt.
The prefix (pra) + the stem (coda) of which comes from the root cud ( a 1P class root) and its conjugation termination ( yā + (t for 3rd per.sing )), is how I have been looking at it. Yet how to conjugate to get to this term ?

My research suggests this is liṇ ( optative mood, or mode as some like to call it). Others ( on line) concur, yet:
for liṇ ( optative mood) an ' ī ' ( which yields the familiar a+ ī = 'e' ) marker of the thematic class 1,4, 6,10 is used/applied in the present system. Using this
rule I should get pracodet for 3rd per singular, active ( parasmaipada). The other endings for 2nd person is ' es ' and 1st person 'eyam' . The 'y' rule being used of not
letting 'e' come in contact with the initial vowel of 'am',per Robert Goldman's devavāṇīpraveśikā 14.16 direction.
Yet the 'yā' marker applies to the athematic class 2,3,5,7,8,9 and hence and solves the initial problem, but:
Q1: How would this then apply to a 1P class root 'cud' ?
Q2: Could this then be benedictive āśīr liṇ ( the optative of blessing) being used ?

If it is āśīr liṇ , the rule as I understand it is it is formed by 'adding endings very similar to the athematic optative endings directly to the verb root itself.'
The rule continues - 'essentially, the sibilant -s is inserted between the optative marker -yā and the personal endings. By the action of the rules of sandhi, the second- and third-person benedictive endings are identical to the corresponding optative endings (-yāst turns into -yāt for the third person, and -yāss into yās for the second person).'
Using this approach gets me to where I wish to go, yet: there is some 'issue' about applying 'yā' directly to the root cud, as it would yield pra+ cud+yā+t ≠ pracodayāt found in the mantra.
Hence my dilemma in understanding... any assistance is (really) welcomed.


A Regular Guy said...

From the prologue offered (by me) above:

gāyatrī vā īdaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ
yadidaṃ kiṃ ca vāgvai gāyatrī vāgvā
idaṃ sarvaṃ bhūtaṃ gāyati ca trāyate ca || 3.12.1 || chāndogyopaniṣad

All that exists ( some say 'all this) in this world, whatever there is, is gāyatrī. It is the word that is gāyatrī, for the word gives names to all things and it also tells them not to fear.

thought it would be important to add that.

thank you,