Sanskrit Wisdom

Gayatri Mantra History

Learn about the origin of Gayatri Mantra which is considered to be one of the important mantras of Sanatan Dharma i.e. Hinduism.

भूर्भुवः स्वः
भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि ।
धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात् ॥

Gayatri Mantra

It is one of the most revered of mantras in Sanatan Dharma. There are many Gayatri mantras, one for each of the famous deities.

In this post, we will look at the most important and the first Gayatri Mantra, how it was created, who created it, and its significance.

King Vishwamitra

As most of the historical stories start…

A long time ago in the Satya Yuga, there was a king named Vishwamitra. He was a righteous king who ruled his kingdom well and treated his citizens with justice, love and care. Everyone had equal rights and were happy.

He was a brave and wise king. His army was the strongest and most disciplined, which had defeated all other major kingdoms on earth under his able guidance and leadership.

To check if all is well, he used to visit all corners of his vast kingdom frequently with a good number of soldiers. Generally it would be in the thousands. His kingdom was so vast that it used to take months for his visit to be over.

Bramha Rishi Vashishtha

During one such visit, when it was nearing its end, his entourage and army were in a forest near the kingdoms capital. They were tired and hungry after a long journey.

Vishwamitra remembered that Bramha Rishi Vashishtha, his spiritual guru and religious teacher of his kingdom resided in his ashram deep in the forest. He then decided to visit him to check on his well-being and to also get his soldiers a much needed rest.

Bramha Rishi Vashishtha was a great spiritual soul; he was constantly performing many yagnas for the betterment of society. He had great spiritual powers and was revered throughout the world. He was considered to be one with God.

His ashram was full of trees which had exotic fruits that were not seen anywhere, flowers which had divine fragrance. Wild animals used to roam around freely without harming anyone due to his divine consciousness.

Meeting of Bramha Rishi Vashishtha and King Vishwamitra

Vishwamitra ordered his entourage and army to move towards Bramha Rishi Vashishtha’s ashram. As soon as they reached the ashram, King Vishwamitra met Bramha Rishi Vashishtha to seek his blessings and enquired about him and his disciples.

As a mark of respect, he gave precious stones, gold and other rare precious things to the Bramha Rishi. However, Bramha Rishi respectfully declined, stating that he had everything that he needed.

Vishwamitra then asked if he and his entourage along with his army could rest in the ashram for a few days before they returned back to their capital. Bramha Rishi Vashishtha happily agreed.

Looking at the tired men and Vishwamitra, Bramha Rishi Vashishtha told the king that he would take care of their food and other needs. The king was surprised. He told Bramha Rishi Vashishtha that he has more than a few thousand men with him and it would be difficult for the Bramha Rishi’s disciples to cook and serve for so many of his men.

Kamadhenu - The Wish Fulfilling Holy Cow

Bramha Rishi Vashishtha calmly answered, “O great king, do not worry, you and your men will have the best treat of your lives, and will be served food so delicious that you all will forget your tiredness and will reinvigorate in no time.”

After some rest, King Vishwamitra and his men headed to the hall where a large number of people could be served food. Upon entering the hall they were surprised to smell an aroma of different delicious dishes which they had never smelled before. This raised their curiosity and made them hungrier.

They all sat in a row on the floor in the traditional Indian way of eating food. Vishwamitra was given a special seat, different from the rest, to suit his stature.

At this time, Bramha Rishi Vashishtha entered the hall and ordered food to be served. The Bramha Rishi’s disciples all quickly started serving the delicious food.

King Vishwamitra and his men had never had such food to eat before. They asked for more and more till they could eat no longer, however the food did not get over.

This surprised the king and he became anxious to know how his guru could feed such delicious food to so many people.

After finishing his food, he went to his guru Bramha Rishi Vashishtha and asked the reason behind such delicious and never ending food.

His guru said; “This is all because of the holy cow Kamadhenu. It has been given to me by God almighty. Kamadhenu is a wish fulfilling cow. Any wish that I ask for, is granted by her. The delicious food that you all ate is because of her.”

Conflict between Bramha Rishi Vashishtha and King Vishwamitra

King Vishwamitra immediately started thinking of how Kamadhenu could help him in ruling his kingdom. He asked his guru to give Kamadhenu to him.

Bramha Rishi Vashishtha said; “No great king, I cannot give her away. Firstly, she has been given to me as a gift by God almighty; secondly, she helps me in performing my yagnas with all that I need. Thirdly, she cannot be just given away, you or anyone desirous of having her, needs to be worthy enough to have her.”

King Vishwamitra got frustrated and in a stern voice asked for Kamadhenu to be given to him. Bramha Rishi Vashishtha very calmly refused.

At this moment, the king realized that he will need to be diplomatic. He then changed his tone and said; “I will give you a thousand elephants, but give me Kamadhenu.” Bramha Rishi Vashishtha very calmly refused again.

The king again tried to be persuasive and said; “Along with the elephants, I will also give you a 100 chariots filled with precious gems and stones.” Still the Bramha Rishi did not relent.

Again the king said; “I will give you 10000 cows in place of Kamadhenu, but give me Kamadhenu.” After listening to the persuasion tactics of King Vishwamitra, Bramha Rishi Vashishtha said; “You can give me all the wealth you have, all the land in your kingdom, but I will not give you Kamadhenu.”

Defeat of King Vishwamitra

Hearing this, Vishwamitra became angry. He said: “Be careful O revered Guru, you are making a mistake by refusing to give Kamadhenu to me. The place where you reside has been given by me. I have been generous enough to allow you to perform your rituals and yagnas in my kingdom. If I want I could take Kamadhenu by force.
However, out of respect, I requested you to give Kamadhenu to me.”

Even after the king made this statement, the Bramha Rishi did not relent. The king angrily called upon his general. Bramha Rishi Vashishtha’s disciples were now tense and afraid. They anticipated something bad to transpire.
They looked towards their guru. To their surprise, he was as calm as one could be.

In the interim, the general came rushing in. He paid his respects to his king and asked for his orders.

King Vishwamitra ordered him to capture Kamadhenu. The general ran out, gathered a few soldiers and came back.

The general and his men searched for Kamadhenu, the wish fulfilling cow. The cow was nowhere to be seen in the ashram. They then went into the meadow and found Kamadhenu grazing. By this time, Bramha Rishi Vashishtha had also reached the meadow.

Looking at the kings men, Kamadhenu realized that the men had come to capture her. She looked at the revered sage and asked him through telepathy: “Are you going to allow these men to capture me.”

Bramha Rishi Vashishtha, replied back again through telepathy, you are all knowing and all giving. You need not be afraid of these men. You can defend yourself.

Kamadhenu shook herself and a hundred of the best soldiers come out of her belly. They were the best of archers, swordsmen, charioteers and were skilled in all type of warfare.

The king’s men started their preparation for battle and attached the skilled divine warriors. The king’s men were no match to these divine warriors and were decimated.

King Vishwamitra upon hearing the news of his men’s defeat became angry and furious. He said to himself, my army is the best in the world. They have defeated all the major armies of the world. How can a few hundred men defeat my skilled army?

He then called the rest of his army from his capital to fight these men. The whole army of King Vishwamitra came to Bramha Rishi Vashishtha’s ashram to attack.

Meanwhile, Kamadhenu had created a few thousand divine warriors in anticipation of a larger army coming to attach the ashram. After the battle, the whole army of Vishwamitra was decimated and King Vishwamitra defeated.

The king’s anger knew no bound. His was out of his senses and said to Bramha Rishi Vashishtha: “I am not done with you. I will come back and take Kamadhenu. You cannot defeat me.”

With a lot of anger in his heart after being humiliated, he left the ashram and went to the Himalayas. He realized no earthly power can defeat his guru; he would have to have divine powers to defeat him. So he started meditating to Bhagwan Shiva, the destroyer, one of the holy trinity, master of divine weapons.

Vishwamitra from King to Bramha Rishi

King Vishwamitra meditated for a decade undergoing severe austerity but nothing happened. He still continued for a few hundred years. After that, Bhagwan Shiva appeared in front of him and said; “I am happy with your meditation. Tell me son, what do you want?” Vishwamitra asked Lord Shiva to give him the power of all divine weapons and control over earthly elements.

Bhagwan Shiva said: “Tathastu, I grant you your wish.”

Upon getting these powers, king Vishwamitra reached Bramha Rishi Vashishtha’s ashram. He raised his hand, invoked fire god Agni and threw fire on the ashram with tremendous force.

All the cottages in the ashram were gutted along with the adjoining meadows. At that moment, Bramha Rishi Vashishtha arrived and with a sad heart said: “What have you done Vishwamitra?”

The king was soaked in the pride of his new found power. He said; “Now it’s yours turn sage Vashishtha, behold my power” and started to throw fire on him.

Bramha Rishi Vashishtha raised his staff and absorbed the fire. Then Vishwamitra came up with a powerful wall of water like a tsunami. This was also absorbed by Bramha Rishi Vashishtha’s staff. Vishwamitra tried all the weapons and power he had on his guru, but in vain. The staff of Bramha Rishi Vashishtha absorbed all of the weapons energy and power used by Vishwamitra without a scratch to the Bramha Rishi.

Ultimately, Vishwamitra decided to use the Bramhastra (divine nuclear weapon) on his guru. Bramha Rishi Vashishtha was very sad to see Vishwamitra stoop to this level to avenge his defeat. Using his staff, the Bramha Rishi also stopped the Bramhastra.

Seeing this, Vishwamitra realized his folly and with folded hands bowed to Bramha Rishi Vashishtha and said; “I will be back.”

He then went to the Himalayas to atone for his sins. He meditated upon Bhagwan Bramha, the god of creation, one of the holy trinity, for hundreds of years by foregoing food, sleep and all material things.

Lord Bramha then appeared before him and said; “I am happy with you penance and meditation. I grant you the title of a Raj Rishi”, a king among rishis and disappeared.

Vishwamitra wanted to be a Bramha Rishi. He started to introspect as to why Lord Bramha did not make him a Bramha Rishi. He reflected upon it and found out that he was once disturbed by the chirping of a bird and had cursed it.

Delving deep on his thought provoking introspection, he had realized that he had anger left in him. He had to overcome it along with all forms of desires to be one with god. Only then would he become a Bramha Rishi.

He again meditated with serve austerities for thousands of years after which Bhagwan Vishnu, the maintainer of the universe, one of the holy trinity appeared before him.

Bhagwan Vishnu said; “Vishwamitra, I am happy with your meditation. What do you desire?”

Vishwamitra asked; “Bhagwan, I wish to be one with the Supreme Being.”

Bhagwan Vishnu replied; “Tathastu, I grant you your wish” and handed over a staff similar to the one his guru Bramha Rishi Vashishtha had and then said; ”Vishwamitra, you are now a Bramha Rishi, when you speak, I speak through you.”

Realization of Gayatri Mantra by Bramha Rishi Vishwamitra

Vishwamitra was happy that he was now a Bramha Rishi but also sad that he had fought with his guru and wanted to atone for that sin. He asked Bhagwan Vishnu for help.

Bhagwan Vishnu said; “Kalayuga is coming, I want you to find a Mantra that humankind can use to come out of their suffering.” Finding the mantra will help you atone your sins.”

Vishwamitra took the blessings of Bhagwan Vishnu and started meditating again. For a long time, nothing happened. Then he started hearing some faint noises and upon close inspection could hear the mantra.

He started to recite it and kept on reciting it. After a while, he could hear a lot of voices chanting the Gayatri mantra with him. When he opened his eyes, he found Bramha Rishi Vashishtha and many divine beings in front of him doing the same.

Vishwamitra bowed to Bramha Rishi Vashishtha. However, this time, Bramha Rishi Vashishtha in turn bowed to Vishwamitra as he was now a Bramha Rishi.

This is how the Gayatri mantra was found by Bramha Rishi Vishwamitra for the betterment of human kind.

The Gayatri mantra is given below:
ॐ भूर्भुवः स्वः। तत्सवितुर्वरेण्यं भर्गो देवस्य धीमहि। धियो यो नः प्रचोदयात्॥

oṃ bhūrbhuvaḥ svaḥ। tatsaviturvareṇyaṃ bhargo devasya dhīmahi। dhiyo yo naḥ pracodayāt॥

Reciting the Gayatri mantra is said to help calm the mind, body and soul. May the one who has read this post also get the blessings to have a peaceful and happy life.



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