Palak: Recently, I came to know from some friends that females are not suppose to recite Gayatri Mantra. They did not know the reason behind this as they had just heard it from their family people. Why is this so? And What is the reason behind this restriction?
Dushyant: To my knowledge, Veda’s have never propagated such theories that women should not chant the Gayatri Mantra. Lets understand the Gayatri Mantra a bit more first:
– Rig Veda
Gayatri Mantra is part of the Rig Veda which is the root to other veda’s also. Gayatri mantra consists of three parts:
2. Meditation, and
While chanting the mantra, we first praise the Divinity, meditate upon it in all reverence and then finally pray for guidance to the right direction. The Mantra is said to be the embodiment of all deities and is certainly not associated with any particular religion or sect, time, place or person. While Om, Bhuh, Bhuvah, Swaha, Thath, Savithur, Varenyam, Bhargo and Devasya are said to be the praise of the Divine, Dheemahi is related to meditation/contemplation of the divine and Dhiyo, Yo, Nah and Prachodayaath are said to be the parts of the prayer aspects of the mantra.
Do women not have the equal rights to Praise Divinity, Meditate on Infinity and pray for blessings?
All mantras have two elements: Bija (Energy) and Prathana (Prayer) – The bija is effective energy or Shakti generating sound of the mantra. In the Gayatri mantra the bijas are Om, bhur, bhuvah, suvaha. Bhur is related to the chakra at the base of the spine (muladhara), bhuvah,(svadhisthana) and suvaha the third chakra (manipura). Om is the bija for stimulating spiritual consciousness. Bhuh also represents the earth element, bhuvaha represents the water element and suvaha the fire element. The whole Gayatri mantra is said to be representing all the veda’s and the entire existance of the universe. the second chakra
And very beautifully Guruji has given such an fascinating explaination to this also:
“Gayatri mantra encompases the whole universe. There are 24 letters that make gyatri mantara. There are 24 vertebra in our spinal cord. One is omkar, two becomes So hujm, then like wise 16 and then 24 becomes Gayatri Mantara. Gayatri Mnatra is the expansion of that one omkar. If one is initiated you can can certainly chant the mantra. The meaning of the Gayatri mantra is let the divinity sink through my intellect. Let our life be purified. But again if you just say Om, that also means the same.” – Sri Sri Ravi Shankar
‘Gayatri’ is also a feminine name and personified as a Godess and she is held in equal reverence because she is the mother of the Vedas or Divine Knowledge. How can then women be denied to chant a mantra which has been originated from the feminine aspect of this creation?
The other two forms of Gayatri are Savitri and Saraswathi and these three are said to be present in everyone, in which – Gayatri is said to be the one to control the senses of a person, Savitri controls the Prana or the Life Force of a person and Saraswathi controls Speech of a person. Thus, the three together represent the purity in thought, word, and deed. In the same order, Gayatri is said to enhance one’s intelligence and intuition by recitation of the mantra, Savitri is said to protect the life forces and Saraswati is said to guard one’s speech. Should women not be encouraged when the essence of it is to uplift the conciousness of the person?
As you can see there is no indication within the Mantra or its translation or its spiritual relevance that Gayatri mantra is gender specific and only can be chanted by a male!!!
Such references and restrictions were mainly propagated by a handful of priests and brahmin pundits from the previous generations. I have come across these questions a few times myself before. The most common reasons given to this is either it is tradition or it produces too much heat in the body so women should not chant Gayatri Mantra. Both these answers are unacceptable as justifications for such a restriction.
I believe that such rules were made more to preserve the political and revered status of brahmins in Hindu society. Since the Gayatri is an essential chant in most Hindu temple ceremonies and may be this rule was created to retain male dominence in the priests traditions.