“Sandhya” or worshipping at the junctures when day and night meets i.e. the periods of dawn and dusk is considered to be very auspicious in Hinduism. Gayatri mantra is one of the main components of Sandhya. As per the ancient Hindu text, Gayatri is considered as the mother of Vedas. Recitation of Gayatri mantra produces same result as studies of four Vedas. Therefore, pages of scriptures are filled with the praise of Gayatri mantra. According to Manu, the one who recites Gayatri mantra continuously for three years reaches to the state of self-realization and becomes one with cosmic consciousness.
Japa or recitation is said to be of three types – reciting aloud (Vachik), murmuring (Upanshu) and mental recitation (Manas). Each one of these is considered to be better than the previous. When once recites aloud so that others can hear your voice, it is called ‘Vachik’ japa. Similarly, when mantra is chanted in such a way that others cannot clearly understand what is being said and lips make murmuring sound, it is known as Upanshu. However, when one chants the mantra only mentally and meditates on the meaning of mantra, it is called Manas japa and considered to be the best among these. A devotee should recite Gayatri mantra at least ten times in a day in order to get free from all sins.
There is a beautiful parable about the importance of Gayatri mantra in 119th chapter of Shanti Parva in Mahabharata. Pippalad, a Brahmin born in Kaushik gotra, was a very spiritual person. He used to chant Gayatri mantra every day. After reciting Gayatri continuously for thousand years, goddess Gayatri appeared in front of him and said, “I am very happy with you.” However, Pippalad’s son was chanting the mantra at that time and he did not open his eyes. Seeing this, mother Gayatri became even happier and kept standing there. This parable depicts that one should not degrade means, because just means are bound to produce positive results. The one who keeps practicing with concentration and devotion reaches to the ultimate state of self-realization. Sticking to the right means with love and faith brings the right fruit for sure.
After completing the recitation of certain numbers of Gayatri mantra, Brahmin stood up and bowed in front of goddess. He said, “O divine mother! If you are satisfied with my devotion, please give me the strength to continue the recitation of great Gayatri mantra all my life with concentration and love.” Goddess Gayatri bestowed him with her blessings and fulfilled his desires. Brahmin began his chanting again and after hundred more years of gods, Dharma, the deity of righteousness appeared in front of him and blessed him with heaven. However, Brahmin told him, “O god! I need no heaven, nor do I want to enjoy the sensual pleasures in other worlds. My only desire is to enjoy the recitation of Gayatri mantra.” Dharma praised his devotion for Gayatri and went back to heaven.
After a while, king Ikshwaku met him and he, impressed with his devotion, offered him wealth and luxuries. Brahmin did not accept the riches and said, “O king of kings, I need no wealth. However, if you desire something, I can give that to you using the divine powers of Gayatri.” The king asked for all the divine effects and Punya of his chanting. Brahmin did not hesitate for a moment and got ready to give all his virtues. But king said, “I am sorry. I do not want it and was just testing your virtuousness.” Gods became happy with both and showered them with flowers from the sky.
At the end, Brahmin taught him the divine knowledge of Brahman and both of they realized the true nature of self, and reached to the state of super-consciousness. One who chants Gayatri mantra with full devotion like the Brahmin gets his all desires fulfilled and reaches to the ultimate goal.
Meaning of Gayatri Mantra :
Oh God! Thou art the Giver of Life,
Remover of pain and sorrow,
The Bestower of happiness,
Oh! Creator of the Universe,
May we receive thy supreme sin-destroying light,
May Thou guide our intellect in the right direction.
According to Brahadaranyakopnishada, the Gayatri Mantra is based on truth. For truth is based on strength. Strength is breath, and is based on breath. So, Gayatri protects (tra) the wealth (gaya) (the breath!) of those who speak it with earnestness and devotion. When one recites Gayatri on behalf of someone, it protects that person’s breath too! The first foot (aum bhur bhuvah svaha) is said to be equivalent to the wealth contained in the three worlds put together. The second foot (tat savitur varenyam) is said to be equivalent to the wealth contained in the three main vedas. If one were to receive a gift extending as far as there are living beings, that would equal the third foot (bhargo devasaya dheemahi). The fourth foot (dheeyo yo nah prachodyaat) is based on the glory of the sun, whose power and wealth remains unequaled and unrivaled. Hence, there is no amount of wealth that can equal the fourth foot of the Gayatri!