Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Section 33-36



omityekākṣaraṁ brahma | agnirdevatā brahma ityārṣam |
gāyatraṁ chandaṁ paramātmaṁ sarūpam | sāyujyaṁ viniyogam || 1||

1. The one syllable ‘Om’ is Brahman. Agni is its Deity. Its Ṛṣi also is Brahman. Its metre is Gāyatrī. Its use is for the union with Paramātman who exists as the manifold universe.


The purpose of the passage is to inform us that the very form of the syllable ‘Om’ is Brahman, that what is denoted by it is also Brahman, here named as Agni, that its Ṛṣi is Brahman, that its metre is Gāyatrī, and that its use is to aid an aspirant to realize his union with the Supreme.


āyātu varadā devī akṣaraṁ brahma saṁmitam |
gāyatrī chandasāṁ mātedaṁ brahma juṣasva naḥ || 1||

1. May the boon-conferring divine Gāyatrī come to us (in order to instruct us about) the imperishable Brahman who is determined by the Vedanta! May Gāyatrī, the mother of metres, favour us with the Supreme just mentioned!


This is the Gāyatrī invocation used in the twilight –devotions. The instruction on the Supreme is mainly conveyed through Prāṇava and Gāyatrī.

Here, therefore, a prayer is addressed to Gāyatrī, the Deity denoted by the verse, requesting her to visit the devotee and favour him with the intuition of the Supreme Brahman—the last word of the Vedas and the final purpose of religious righteousness taught in it.

We note as part of the Vedic faith inspired by the Kena Upaniṣad that Brahmāvidyā is acquired through the grace of the Divine Mother, there named as Umā, and here as Gāyatrī.

The alternative interpretation of the verse, which is given by Bhaṭṭabhāskara, in English would read —

May the boon-giving Deity of Gayatri come to us O Devi, mother of metres, deign to accept this prayer of ours in Gāyatrī metre, which is similar to the imperishable Brahman in greatness.

yadahnātkurute pāpaṁ tadahnātpratimucyate |
yadrātriyātkurute pāpaṁ tadrātriyātpratimucyate |
sarvavarṇe mahādevi sandhyāvidye sarasvati || 2||

2. O thou who art the source of all letters, O thou the great Deity, O thou the object of meditation at twilight, O thou Sarasvatī, may thy devotee be liberated from the sin, which he commits during the day, by the same day and the sin, which he commits during the night, by the same night.


This is supplementary prayer.


ojo'si saho'si balamasi bhrājo'si devānāṁ dhāmanāmāsi
viśvamasi viśvāyuaḥ sarvamasi sarvāyurabhibhūroṁ gāyatrīmāvāhayāmi
sāvitrīmāvāhayāmi sarasvatīmāvāhayāmi chandarhīnāvāhayāmi
śriyamāvāhayāmi gāyatriyā gāyatrī chando Viśvāmitra ṛṣiḥ
savitā devatāgnirmukhaṁ brahmā śiro viṣṇuhṛdayaɱ rudraḥ śikhā
pṛthivī yoniḥ prāṇāpānavyānodānasmānā saprāṇā śvetavarṇā
sāṁkhyāyanasagotrā gāyatrī caturviṁśatyakṣarā tripadā ṣṭkukṣiḥ
pañcaśīrṣopanayane viniyogaḥ || 1||

1. O Gāyatrī, Thou art the essence of strength! Thou art patience, or the subduing power! Thou art physical capacity! Thou art splendour! Thou art the abode of gods and their 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 the Truth denoted by the Prāṇava!

I invoke Gāyatrī, (into my heart)! I invoke Sāvitrī! I invoke Sarasvatī! I invoke the metres, the Ṛṣis (and the gods)! I invoke the splendour (of all the gods)!

Of Gāyatrī the metre is Gāyatrī, the Ṛṣi is Viśvāmitra and the Deity is Sāvitrī.

Fire represents the mouth; the four-faced Brahma, the head; Viṣṇu, the heart, Rudra, the crown- hair, Earth, the source; the m-breath, the out- breath, the diffused breath, the up-breath and the middle breath, the breath. Gāyatrī is fair in hue and is of the same family as Paramātman attained by the Sānkhyas—the illumined sages.

The deity Gāyatrī (explained further as a formula) has twenty-four syllables, comprised in three feet, six sheaths or cavities and five heads. It is employed in Upanayana, or initiation into Vedic studentship.


Along with the previous stanza this section is also employed for invoking Gāyatrī in the heart of the worshipper.

The Vājasaneyins use this Section for the invocation of Gāyatrī instead of the verses beginning with Āyātu varadā devī of the immediately preceding Section.

Worship implies a relation between the worshipper and the object of worship, and also a felt need and a suitable attitude in the worshipper which he naturally and genuinely adopts.

 The apparent limitations and imperfections, as well as the consciousness of sin and impurity incidental to his inherited nature as described in the preceding Sections, engender in the mind of the worshipper the need for invoking the grace of the Supreme in the shape of Gāyatrī to retrieve his own true divine nature which had been temporality eclipsed by the life of the world.

Gravitational flow of water takes place only to a low ground. Similarly only a person who is humble, penitent and eager for purity and freedom can receive the divine glory in its unsullied splendour.

Such an aspiring soul looks to the Divine for all its needs and exclaims “Thou art my strength, Thou art my power, Thou art my glory, Thou art my all”.

So here Gāyatrī conceived as non-different from Brahman is eulogised as the various excellences and attributes listed above.

It has been already noted that Gāyatrī is also known as Sāvitrī and Sarasvatī. The Supreme Being as the Indweller and impeller of all Creation is known as Savitri and hence the passage in praise of Him is called Savitri.

The Vedas are represented as a lake which gives the waters of life and hence Gāyatrī, as the essence of the Vedas, is called Sarasvatī These two terms magnify Gāyatrī as the object of worship

Traditionally Gāyatrī is the name given to That Deity in the forenoon, Sāvitrī in the midday and Sarasvatī in the evening. Gāyatrī is explained as that which protects the person who chants it from the various sins. The epithet Sāvitrī is given because it represents Savitri, who illumines the creation; and Sarasvatī because in that aspect it expresses the world in the shape of speech.

These three are also represented as Brahma, Rudra and Viṣṇu as well as red, white and black.

Whatever may be the details of worship, the Supreme is worshipped through the Gāyatrī.

The principal part of this devotion consists in the meditation of Gāyatrī in the orb of the sun, visualised in one's own heart as non-different from Paramātman. The ritualistic details are secondary.

The Mahābhārata states that during the Kurukṣettra war, Yudhisṭhīra and other leaders did the twilight meditation at the appropriate time without retiring from the battle field for the performance of detailed rituals.

Being the essence of all mantras, Gāyatrī embodies in it mystically all the metres, all the Ṛṣis, all the gods as well as their splendour. So by the invocation of Gāyatrī all these are invoked within oneself. No mantra is fit for employment in religious acts unless the metre, the deity and the seer are also remembered. So Gāyatrī, Viśvāmitra and Savitri are next mentioned.

Then the formula of Gāyatrī is personified for meditation —Agṇi, the first of Gods, is the mouth, Brahma the first-born is the head, Viṣṇu is the heart and Rudra is the śikhā or flame causing the final dissolution (or what is placed at the top of all).

The earth is the Yoni, i.e. the source, and the winds, the breath. Fairness in hue is indicative of the highest purity. The knowledge of family is necessary to assess the greatness of an individual and it is explained that Gāyatrī is of the same Gotra as Brahman.

The form of Gāyatrī mantra is then described:

It has 3 feet of 8 syllables each, 6 sheaths or auxiliaries to the Vedas which protect the Vedas represented by Gāyatrī like a sheath, 5 heads consisting of 4 Vedas and Itihāsa and Purāṇa known as fifth Veda.

These details about Gāyatrī are recited before a boy is initiated into studentship and Gāyatrī is instructed.

auṁ bhūḥ | auṁ bhuvaḥ | oɱsuvaḥ | auṁ mahaḥ |
auṁ janaḥ | auṁ tapaḥ | oɱ satyam |
auṁ tatsaviturvareṇyaṁ bhargo devasya dhīmahi |
dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt |
omāpo jyotī raso'mṛtaṁ brahma bhūrbhuvaḥ suvarom || 2||

2. Om Earth Om Sky! Om Heaven! Om Middle Region!! Om Place of Birth! Om Mansion of the Blessed! Om Abode of Truth. Om may we meditate on the Adorable Light of that Divine Generator who quickens our understandings! Om He is water, light, flavour, ambrosia and also the three worlds! He who is denoted by Prāṇava is all these!


This passage gives the mantras employed for mental repetition and concentration during the performance of Prāṇāyāma. Four elements namely, Prāṇava, Vyāhṛtis, Gāyatrī and Gāyatri-Śiras make up the whole unit.

According to Manu this composite formula is to be mentally repeated clearly and attentively thrice while the breath is retained within. During the retention of the breath the nostrils are closed with the thumb and the little and the ring fingers.

The seven Vyāhṛtis denote the seven worlds created by Brahma, by uttering them in the beginning, and the first three of them are called Maha- Vyāhṛtis.

Prāṇava is added to each of them to point out that each Vyāhṛti independently also stands for the Supreme. After the seven Vyāhṛtis the Gāyatrī mantra follows them, headed by another Prāṇava, which again implies that the Supreme alone is denoted by the Gāyatrī mantra.

This is succeeded by Gāyatrī-Śiras bracketed by the Prāṇavas in the beginning and the end. Gāyatrī coming in the middle is the fundamental element and the rest are auxiliaries thereof.

When a person performs the prāṇāyāma and concentrates his thought on this mantra, the latent spiritual tendencies in the depth of his being are awakened and he becomes fit for communion with the Supreme Reality and eventually he realises the spiritual goal.

The metres associated with the seven Vyāhṛtis are Gāyatrī, Uṣṇik, Anuṣṭubh, Brihati, paṅkti, triṣṭub, and jagatī and their deities are Agṇi, Vāyu, Surya, Bṛhaspati, Varuṇa, Indra and Viśvadevas respectively. Prajāpati is then Ṛṣi.

Gāyatrīśiras consisting of sixteen syllables is called so because it forms as if it were the head of the formula.

Prajāpati is its Ṛṣi, Anuṣṭubh is the metre and Brahma, Agṇi and Vāyu are the deities.

It has been mentioned that the Gāyatrī is employed during the performance of japa, homa and dhyāna. Until one is purified by the practice of prāṇāyāma he is not ready for japa. Hence the importance of the formula given here for the practice of prāṇāyāma.

The prāṇāyāma which is performed during the twilight devotions differs from the one advocated by Patañjali for the practice of yoga:

In the former the retention period alone is measured by the formula given here. In the latter case breathing in, holding the breath within and breathing out are appropriately measured.

There is a considerable literature explaining the meaning of Gāyatrī towards which all the great ācāryas have made then contribution.

The word tat qualifying Savitri makes it clear that the visible prime luminary of the heavens is only a representation of the Godhead who is referred to here as immanent in all creatures and also transcendent.

He is Savitri because He is the cause of the universe and He animates and impels all that exists. He is deva because He is self-luminous, and all other light, whether intellectual or physical, is a loan from Him. The devotee meditates upon His Bhargā, light, for the attainment of all the fourfold values of life.

 The term Bhargā is derived from the root meaning to roast or to burn. It, therefore, implies not only the radiant light but also the heat which destroys the root of ignorance and misery which bars one from the attainment of the Supreme.

Hence this Divine Light is eagerly sought after by all who seek release from the round of birth and death.

The significance of the third line of the Gāyatrī is this:

According to the Vedas, thought and activity make up human destiny. A man’s mental activities elevate him if and when they are under the influence of divine operation. Hence in this line the devotee’s longing is expressed that the Supreme should guide his mind towards the performance of religious duty, selfless devotion to God and the highest illumination.


uttame śikhare devi jāte bhūmyāṁ parvatamūrdhani |
brāhmaṇebhyo'bhyanujñātā gaccha devi yathāsukham || 1||

1. O Goddess, Thou mayest go and remain at Thy pleasure on the highest and holiest peak on the earth, or in any high place until the brāhmaṇas remember Thee again.


This stanza and the succeeding one are repeated at the close of twilight devotions for the dismissal of Gāyatrī.

According to Sāyana the abode of Gāyatrī from where she is summoned is on the highest peak of the mountain called Meru on the earth.

Whereas Bhaṭṭabhāskara appears to understand the various epithets in the first line as places where Gāyatrī is at liberty to be until She is summoned further.

stuto mayā varadā vedamātā pracodayantī pavane dvijātā |
āyuḥ pṛthivyāṁ draviṇaṁ brahmavarcasaṁ mahyaṁ datvā
prajātuṁ brahmalokam || 2||

2. May the boon-conferring Mother of the Vedas, who has been magnified by me, who impels the created beings like wind and who has two places of birth, depart to the excellently produced world of Brahman, having conferred on me, here on the earth, long life, wealth and power of Vedic learning.


It is believed that the residence of Gāyatrī is both Brahmaloka and the orb of the sun as suggested by the word dvijātā. The passage, however, directly indicates Brahmaloka as the place to which Gāyatrī devī returns.

The Atharvaveda XIX 71 1 gives a similar form of the mantra as follows:

This is blemishless. Pāvamāna is the Indwelling Divine Spirit. Gāyatrī extols His glory, further Gāyatrī is the Mother of the Vedas or the Vedas are represented by Her.

The seer here prays for the fruits of the devotion properly performed for everyone including himself:

“May Gāyatrī, the Vedamātā, who glorifies the Supreme Reality, having been invoked by me during the worship grant me and all the twice-born, longevity, life, progeny, cattle, renown, wealth and splendour of spirituality.

After giving these, may Gāyatrī go back to the Supreme Brahman from whom She arose.”