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Sri Gaayathri dEvi: Vedic Significance

From: Sadagopan (sgopan_at_computer.net)
Date: Sun Jan 24 1999 - 05:58:54 PST

Dear anushtAthAs :

There was a question in another net about 
the multiple devis invoked in SandhyA Vandhana
manthrams (i-e) , Gaayathri , Saavithri and Sarasvathi .
Here is some background information on it .Veda manthrams 
have to be looked at many levels and planes beyond the most superficial .
When we evoke Saavithri and Sarasvathi , we have to keep this in mind 
and not link it with smarthAs and VaishNavAs and along those channels
of reasoning . I agree with a bhagavathA's observation that we are 
all "smaarthAs" from the point of followers of Smruthis .
I will comment on " the three Devis " , who can be
understood as one Devi .

GaayathrI
*********

Gaayathri is considered as the essence of the Vedaas .
Gaayathri ,the triple hymn with three times eight 
syllables in each of its three paadhams , is also
the name for a Vedic metre .This three-paadha Gaayathri 
Manthram is what one uses during the worship of the sandhyAs .
This manthram is also considered as the Mother of VedAs .
Gaayathri is also called Saavithri (hymn to the Sun , 
Savithru, the seven of the DwAdasa AadithyAs ). 
There is also a chathur Paadha ( Four-legged )
Gaayathri Manthram with 32 syallables . It is powerful 
and is rarely recited , since it needs special initiation 
and a high degree of spiritual realization . 

Gaayathri , the hymn to the Sun (Sriman NaarAyaNan 
in the middle of the orb of the Sun ) is revered as 
Gaayathri at dawn ( prAtha: SandhyA ) , Saavithri 
at mid-day ( maadhyAhnikam ) and Sarasvathi at Saayam SandhyA .

Gaayathri manthram is housed in Rg Veda samhithai
( Rg Veda : 3.62.10). It is recited to attain the 
four goals of life (PurushArthams ) through contemplation
of the meanings of PraNavam and AkAra Vaachyan , Sriman 
NaarAyaNan and the sesha -sEshi relationship to SaraNya
Dampathis . 

BrahadAraNyaka Upanishad (5.14.4, 5.15 )and ChAndhOgya 
Upanishad (3.12-13) salute Gaayathri as the protector 
of Vital Energies . ChAndhOyga passages elaborate 
on Gaayathri Brahma VidhyA and its relation to
Moksha Saadhanam by contemplating Brahman as made up
of the 24 syallables ( 6 times 4 ).The six refers to
the 6 of " the guNAs of Brahman " for meditation and the four 
refer to the four paadhams (quarters or feet ).This 
upanishidhic passage connects Gayathri's one paadham
to be in prithvI (on Earth ) and the the remianing in 
Sri Vaikuntam as referred to in Purusha Sooktham. 
The attributes of the other three paadhams are elaborated 
in this section of ChAndhOgya Upanishad .

Sarasvathi 
***********
In an earlier posting , I have covered the Vedic 
meanings of Sarasvathi as the Vedic Speech .DevarAja 
Yasvan, the noted commentator of YaskA's Niruktham  has 
derived the word Sarasvathi as "Sara: PrasaraNamasyAsthIthi "
or One whose expanse is this entire creation or One in
whom such knowledge is sustained .It refers thus again to 
Vedic Speech .

In Gaayathri manthram , the last section prays:
>" dhiyO ---prachOdhayAth ". We can see the echo 
of the above two words in two Rg veda manthrams 
(I.3.11 & 12 ):

chOdhayathri sUnruthAnAm chEthanthi sumathInAm
************
yaj~nam dhadhE Sarasvathi 

(meaning ): Sarasvathi , who inspires those delighting 
in truth ,(who is) the AchAryan of the right-minded , has 
graciously  accepted our Yaj~nam ( Havis/offering ).

mahO arNa: Sarasvathi prachEthayathi kEthunA
dhiyO visvA virAjathi 
*****

(Meaning ):  Sarasvathi  manifests by Her acts as
a mighty river and (in Her own form ) enlightens all
understandings (provides illuminating meanings ). 

Saavithri
**********
Her name translates in to " belonging to the Sun ".
his Sun or Aadithyan is SavithA , the 7th among 
he DwAdasa AadhityAs .
If Gayathri is "triple hymn " , Saavithri is 
the "solar hymn ".These hymns to the Sun is as mentioned 
before are visualized as Gaayathri at dawn , Saavithri at midday
and Sarasvathi at saayam sandhyA .

V.Sadagopan