Gayatri mantra, the most ancient prayer

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Not a moment goes by that the Gayatri mantra is not recited somewhere in the world. The age-old words of this mantra cover the earth like a warm blanket. You could see it as a universal prayer, that comes naturally to our lips. Saying the Gayatri mantra helps you dissolve the veil of clouds, the jumble of thoughts in your head, and bring out the sun inside yourself.  It is a craving for light within ourselves as well as from the outside.

Some people say the words out loud, others whisper or speak them to themselves. The text can also be sung; itโ€™s probably Deva Premal and Miten who perform the best-known renditions. Even if you have no idea what the mantra is about at its profoundest level, you will surely feel some of the magic, of the grand, sacred, powerful things of which these two sing of. 

Could this be an explanation of why the Gayatri is regarded as the most sacred and powerful of all mantras? The sounds have most likely been uttered for thousands of years. The first time they were written down on paper was in the Rig Veda, a Vedic scripture from ancient India written between 1800 and 1500 BC.

Only for priests?
The mantra is also mentioned in the Bhagavad Gita, another sacred scripture from the Indian tradition. It was called 'The Poem of the Divine here. Initially it was only accessible to very few people. The sacred words in Sanskrit were intended only for priests; they were said to be too powerful for the uninitiated. These days, the Gayatri mantra is for everyone. It is so all-encompassing that it transcends religions and spiritual movements.

There is a good reason why the sun god Savitur is called upon in the second line. The mantra is a hymn to him โ€“ to the sun that brings life to earth, that cares for us and warms us with his energy. When you say the Gayatri out loud, you reflect on this infinite light. You may experience feelings of gratitude, veneration, or maybe even humility.

The Source: unconditional love
However, Savitur does not only reside high up in the heavens. According to the Vedic philosophy, this light is in everything that lives, including in ourselves. It is our inner sun, sometimes called the divine, unconditional love, the Source. This is how you light your own path, and that of others too. You could interpret the Gayatri mantra as a wish that all beings on earth may be enlightened. The more often you repeat the mantra the more powerful its effect, the sublime number is said to be 108 times in a row. Even if you take the words to heart only a few times, you are bound to shine.

Photography by Jeroen van der Spek