Mahā Nārāyaṇa Upanishad | Section I 19-33

sadasaspatimadbhutaṁ priyamindrasya kāmyam .
saniṁ medhāmayāsiṣam .. 19..

19. I pray I may attain to the marvellously excellent Lord of the unmanifest cause of the universe who is dear to Indra and my own Self, who is covetable, who is worthy of reverence and who is the bestower of intellectual powers.


This stanza in Gāyatrī metre is a prayer addressed to the indwelling Paramātman for the gift of mental powers leading to illumination.

The Kena Upaniṣad narrates a tale from which we understand that Indra was the first and foremost of gods who realized Brahman nearest.

The Aitareya Upaniṣad informs us that Indra is the mystic name of the Ātman dwel­ling in the creatures. So it is evident that the Antaryāmin (in­dwelling Ātman) is the dearest object to everyone.

uddīpyasva jātavedo'paghnanniṛtiṁ mama .
paśūɱśca mahyamamāvaha jīvanaṁ ca diśo diśa .. 20..

20. O Jātavedas, shine brilliantly in order to destroy the sins connected with me. Confer on me enjoyments of various kinds including cattle. Give me sustenance and longevity and appoint a suitable dwelling for me in any direction.


This is another prayer in Anuṣṭubh metre to God medita­ted in Fire. Jātavedas is he who dwells in the human body assimilating food and guiding vital functions, or he who knows the needs of all beings born.

Niṛiti or Alakṣmī embodies in Hindu tradition all disvalues like poverty, ugliness, unlawful acts, laziness and so on.

The quest of God can be successful only when an aspirant has a suitable place to stay, necessary comforts which insure against distraction and worry and the shining grace of God which keeps away all mental and physi­cal sins of omission and commission. Hence the significance of such a prayer.

mā no hiɱsījjātavedo gāmaśvaṁ puruṣaṁ jagat .
abibhradagna āgahi śriyā mā paripātaya .. 21..

21. O Jātavedas, through Thy grace may not the evil one slay our cows, horses, men and other belongings in the world. O Fire, come to succour us without holding weapons in Thy hand or thoughts of our offences in Thy mind. Unite me on all sides with wealth.


This stanza in Anuṣṭubh metre contains again two other prayers to the Antaryāmī for the safety of wealth acquired through His grace and for the attainment of greater posses­sions implied by Śrī, leading up to final beatitude.

puruṣasya vidmahe sahasrākṣasya mahādevasya dhīmahi . tanno
rudraḥ pracodayāt .. 22..

22. May we know the Supreme Person and for the attainment of His Knowledge may we meditate upon Him, the thousand-eyed Great God. May Rudra, the giver of Knowledge, impel us towards such meditation and keep us in it.


This and the following 12 passages are called Gāyatrī addressed to different deities. These are employed by a spiri­tual aspirant for worship and meditation as also for mental and oral repetition (japa). The term Gāyatrī denotes a parti­cular metre in which a very large number of Vedic stanzas are composed. Of all these stanzas the most outstanding one is the stanza at Rigveda 3-62-10 of which the seer is Viśvāmitra and the Deity Sāvitrī. For one of the earliest commendations of Gāyatrī see Chāṇḍogya Up 3-12-1 and S11 Śaṅkarācārya’s commentary on it

This mantra is used by a twice-born Hindu in his daily devotions and during special acts of worship. The Gāyatrī mantra is also called Sāvitrī and Sarasvatī in view of the fact that it is addressed to Sāvitrī and worshipped also as Sarasvatī. Gāyatrī itself is considered as a feminine Deity.

In common usage, however, the word Gāyatrī denotes the stanza in 24 letters occurring in a particular pattern. The Supreme Reality, Paramātman or Parabrahman, is invoked through this stanza. Exactly on the same ideal and verbal pattern several other Gāyatrīs have come into vogue, although none of them has attained the same universality, sanctity and significance which the original Gāyatrī possesses.

Nevertheless every holy formula cast in the mould of the first and foremost Gāyatrī has an outstanding part to play in the worship of that particular deity with which it is connected:

A name and characteristic description of the object of worship, a longing on the part of the worshipper to comprehend that object of worship in contemplation, and a prayer to the deity worshipp­ed for goading, guiding and holding one’s instrument of under­standing so that one might attain the highest and best fruit of life—these comprise the essence of all worship, and the Gāyatrī formula presents them in the most luminous and concise manner.

The greatest help which man should expect of God is not personal services rendered for the satisfaction of his desires and needs like a good neighbour reciprocating previous favours, but the guidance of his thoughts in the right direction.

In all the Gāyatrīs therefore, the central thought consists in a petition to the Most High for initiating, controlling and deve­loping thoughts, desires and feelings of the worshipper in a way conducive to the attainment of the highest human values and the knowledge of God that leads to liberation.

Maitrāyaṇī Saṁhitā of the Yajurveda (2-9 -1) gives for the first time eleven dhyāna-Gāyatrīs employed for the meditation and worship of Rudra-Śiva. There it is not merely an oblation made in consecrated fire, but the cityāgṇi is worshipped as the Divine Person preceded by śatarudrīya- homa. The first Gāyatrī given in this Upaniṣad occurs there.

This, the first Gāyatrī given here, is addressed to Rudra- Mahādeva. The name Rudra is described as the power that rules knowledge and wisdom. Rudra is jñāna data and as such He is the guide of the whole universe. As Virāt He is myriad- eyed and He is the Puruṣa pervading all creation. Mahādeva is the usual name by which His unrivalled divine nature is described. The aspirant after mokṣa or final beatitude ex­presses his longing to know the Supreme by the use of the verb in the potential mood, the same mood is used also in connec­tion with the meditation, implying that even the desire to medi­tate is engendered only through prayer to the Supreme for its gain.

The use of the verbs in the first person plural in all these Gāyatrī formulas is especially noteworthy. Man is gregarious by nature. He can hardly rise above the moral and spiritual level attained by the collectivity to which he belongs. It is, therefore, necessary that every religious aspirant who strives for the uplift of his own self should also remember the whole community to which he belongs, so that all may be raised above the previous level. This great truth is implied in the plural expressions, “May we know” and “May we meditate”.

The supplication implied in the last verb finally points out that the worshipper owes his approach to God solely to the impulse granted by God Himself. In all the Gāyatrīs that follow the same motivation runs centrally.

These Gāyatrīs are repeated for getting purity of mind accompanied by meditation on the deity indicated. Puruṣā contained in this Rudra Gāyatrī implies that all deities may be invoked by a votary with the same mantra which is connected with his iṣṭa or chosen ideal, considering them as non-different from Him.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe mahādevāya dhīmahi .
tanno rudraḥ pracodayāt .. 23..

23. May we know or realize the Supreme Person! For that, may we meditate upon Mahādeva and to that meditation may Rudra impel us.


This contemplation verse gives in concise language the characteristics of Tatpurua-Mahādeva as worshipped in the images. The terms Purua, Mahādeva and Rudra are epithets of the same Divine Person implying His personality and spiritual characteristics.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe vakratuṇḍāya dhīmahi .
tanno dantiḥ pracodayāt .. 24..

24. May we know the Supreme Person! For that, may we meditate upon Vakratunḍa May Dantin impel us towards it.


In all Gāyatrīs three epithets and three acts, namely, knowledge, meditation and impelling are to be connected. In this Vighṇeśa Gāyatrī employed in the worship of Īśvara, the Supreme Person is represented as elephant-faced, having a bent trunk and an excellent tusk. Vakratunḍa and Dantin are the names of Vināyaka. Danti is the Vedic form of Dantin.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe cakratuṇḍāya dhīmahi .
tanno nandiḥ pracodayāt .. 25..

25. May we know the Divine Person! For that, may we meditate upon Cakratunḍa May Nandi impel us towards it.


Here the epithets Purua and Cakratunḍa refer to Nandikeśvara, the servant, seat and vehicle of Śiva.

Being one endowed with occult powers, he is capable of assuming human shape as a puruṣa. He is called Cakratunḍa as he wielded the weapon known as Cakra, discus, while Śiva was engaged in battle with demons by grasping it with the mouth.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe mahāsenāya dhīmahi .
tannaḥ ṣaṇmukhaḥ pracodayāt .. 26.

26. May we know that Divine Person! For that, may we meditate upon Mahāsena! May Ṣaṇmukha impel us towards it.


This is a prayer addressed to Kārtikeya who is represent­ed as having six faces and as the general of the celestial army.

tatpuruṣāya vidmahe suvarṇapakṣāya dhīmahi .
tanno garuḍaḥ pracodayāt .. 27

27. May we know that Divine Person For that, may we meditate on Suvarṇapakṣa! May Garuḍa impel us towards it!


This Garuda Gāyatrī represents Garuda as having golden wings. The name Garuda is traced to the root gr meaning to swallow.

vedātmanāya vidmahe hiraṇyagarbhāya dhīmahi .
tanno brahma pracodayāt .. 28

28. May we know the Veda, embodied as the four-faced Brahmā! For that, may we meditate upon Hiraṇyagarbha! May Brahman impel us towards it!


This is a prayer addressed to Brahman. Some texts read Brahma as neuter singular while others have masculine singu­lar Brahmā.

 It is explained thus:

Through the strenuous study of Vedānta as resident students in the place of the preceptor may we know Brahman, the Highest Reality, also expressed in the Vedic scriptures.

Having known that Reality may we continually meditate upon that unlimited Truth day and night identifying It with ourselves.

The four-faced Brahma named Hiraṇyagarbha and the Vedic lore are but the expressions of the Supreme Reality which, as the impelling Spirit, influences one to do acts meri­torious or otherwise.

nārāyaṇāya vidmahe vāsudevāya dhīmahi .
tanno viṣṇuḥ pracodayāt .. 29.

29. May we know Nārāyaṇa! For that, may we meditate upon Vāsudeva! May Viṣṇu impel us towards it!


The Highest Person is here supplicated as Nārāyaṇa, Vāsudeva and Viṣṇu. Until and unless He impels the individual Soul, it cannot contemplate Him, and without contemplation on Him, His true nature cannot be understood.

Bhaṭṭabhāskara’s explanation of these words in the Viṣṇu Gāyatrī is noteworthy. He derives Nārāyaa thus:

The term Nara, being derived from the root nr - to lead, means the leader of all creation. Nāra derived from the above word denotes his offsprings. Nārāyaṇa therefore, is the effective cause of all creatures. Thus Nārāyaṇa is Paramātman. He is called Vāsudeva in his immanent aspect, i. e., dwelling in all creatures as Antaryāmin. The term Viṣṇu implies His all-pervasiveness.

vajranakhāya vidmahe tīkṣṇadaɱṣṭrāya dhīmahi .
tanno nārasiɱhaḥ pracodayāt .. 30.

30. May we know Vajranakha! For that, may we meditate upon Tīkṣṇa Damṣṭrā! May Narasimha impel us towards it!


This is a prayer to Narasimha. The lengthening of the vowel on the first letter of the word Narasimha makes no difference in the meaning, namely Man-lion God, the avatar of Viṣṇu. Being partly leonine He has sharp eye-teeth and diamond-hard nails.

bhāskarāya vidmahe mahaddyutikarāya dhīmahi .
tanno ādityyaḥ pracodayāt .. 31.

31. May we know Bhāskara! For that may we meditate upon the great-light-producer! May Āditya impel us towards it!


Bhāskara literally means light-giver. The sun is believed to be the child of Āditi, mother of all gods, naturalistically the limitless sky.

vaiśvānaraya vidmahe lālīlāya dhīmahi .
tanno agniḥ pracodayāt .. 32..

32. May we know Vaiśvānara! For that, may we meditate upon Lālīla! May Agni impel us towards it!


This is Agni Gāyatrī. Fire is called Vaiśvānara because He is favourable to all men by helping their cooking and worship.

It is explained that fire is called Lālīla, because oblations are licked up by flicker­ing flames.

kātyāyanāya vidmahe kanyākumāri dhīmahi .
tanno durgiḥ pracodayāt .. 33..

33. May we know Kātyāyana! For that, may we meditate upon Kaṇyā Kumārī! May Durgā impel us towards it!


This Durgā Gāyatrī has for its deity a particular sacred fire with which Durgā is identified. She is called Kātyāyana because of Her being the offspring of Katya in one of Her incarnations.

Kaṇyā Kumārī means a shining virgin, Kaṇyā being derived from the root kan to shine Kumārī is explained as destroyer of evil.

Another explanation tells:

This is a prayer to Ādi Śakti—O Kaṇyā Kumārī, known as also Durgā, may we know Thee as most excellent and accessible solely through devotion—Thou who hast been a bestower of enjoyment and liberation to Kātyāyana (Thy father in one of Thy previous incarnations).

In addition to the Gāyatrīs given above some important texts mention also the following Gāyatrīs:

caturmukhāya vidmahe kamaṇḍaludharāya dhīmahi .
tanno brāhma pracodayāt ..1

ādityāya vidmahe sahasrakiraṇāya dhīmahi .
tanno bhānuḥ pracodayāt ..2

pāvakāya vidmahe saptajihvāya dhīmahi .
tanno vaiśvānaraḥ pracodayāt ..3

mahāśūlinyai vidmahe mahādurgāyai dhīmahi .
tanno Bhagavatī pracodayāt ..4

subhagāyai vidmahe kamalamālinyai dhīmahi .
tanno gaurī pracodayāt ..5

navakulāya vidmahe viṣadantāya dhīmahi .
tannaḥ sarpaḥ pracodayāt ..6