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gāyatrī invocation formula

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After upanayana, an eligible person is supposed to perform
sandhyāvandana ideally lifelong. Japa of the famous sāvitrī mantra in 
gāyatrī meter by r̥ṣi viśvāmitra is an essential part of it. 

Formula in mahānārāyaṇa upaniṣad

The invocation of gāyatrī before the japa is given in taittiriya āraṇyaka 10.35. The invocation begins like this – 
ojo’si saho’si balamasi bhrājosi devānām dhāmanāmāsi viśvamasi viśvāyussarvamasi sarvāyurabhibhūḥ ।
oṁ gāyatrīmāvāhayāmi sāvitrīṁ āvāhayāmi sarasvatīmāvāhayāmi। 
Force are you, strength are you. Might are you, blazing are you. You are by name the dwelling of Gods. All are you. All-life are you.  Everything are you. Every life are you. The overcoming. oM I invoke gāyatrī. I invoke sāvitrī. I invoke sarasvatī

Formula in the saṁhitās

This yajuṣ is actually of old provenance. The brāhmaṇa containing this formula occur in Taittiriya SamhitA 2.4.3.1-3 and MaitrAyaNIya samhitA 2.11 in more or less similar form. The story starts with devas and asuras in conflict.
devāsurāḥ saṁyattā āsan ।  (Taitt)
devāśca vā asurāścāspardhanta ।  (Mait)  tān gāyatrī sarvamannaṁ parigr̥hyantarātiṣṭhat। (Mait)
teṣāṁ gāyatryojo balaṁ indriyaṁ vīryaṁ prajāṁ paśūnt saṁgr̥hyādāyāpakramyātiṣṭhat ।  (Taitt). In maitrAyaNIya version, gAyatrI seized and took away all their food. In taittiriya version, she seizes their force, might, power, strength, offspring and cattle and goes away. 
te’viduryatarān vā iyamupāvartsyati ta idaṁ bhaviṣyantīti। tasyāgṁ vā ubhaya aicchanta, tāṁ nāmnopaipsan ॥ (Mait)
te’manyanta vā iyaṁ upāvartsyati ta idaṁ bhaviṣyantīti।  (Taitt) They realize (or know) whoever she resorts to they become ‘this’. The intent is to win her over. 

dābhi ityasurā āhvayan। viśvakarman iti devāḥ। (Mait)
tām vyahvayanta viśvakarmanniti devā dābhītyasurāḥ। (Taitt). Both of them hail her in rivalry. “All worker” – thus the devas. “Deceiver” – thus the asuras. 

sā nānyatarāgṁśca nopavartata। tāṁ devā etena yajuṣāvr̥njata । (Mait)
sā nānyatarām̐śca nopavartata। te devā etat yajur apaśyan । (Taitt). She did not resort to either of them. The Gods appropriated her by this yajuṣ(Mait). The Gods saw this yajuṣ(Taitt).

Then comes the formula ojo’si … abhibhūḥ| This is the formula that we utter every time we invoke gāyatrī during sandhyāvandana. This brāhmaṇa is the exposition on gāyatrīṣṭi, which is the name used by both maitrāyaṇīya and taittiriya and forms a  part of optional sacrifices in the kāmyeṣṭi collection. Taittiriya (and its sūtras) call this as samvargeṣṭimaitrāyaṇīya just notes this as rāṣṭrasya saṁvarga
Taittiriya version continues how the Gods appropriated the might, power, force, offspring, cattle etc. of the asuras. maitrāyaṇīya proceeds with the ‘eater of food’ motif, but still has the foe quelling aspect as the food of the foe is appropriated.

maitrāyaṇīya  recommends this iṣṭi for one who strives to become the ruler of a nation (rāṣṭra) or one who wishes to be an eater of food (annāda). 
taittiriya recommends this for one who is in conflict with his enemies. “Verily the performer appropriates the force, might, power, strength, offspring and cattle of the foe”.  
agnaye saṁvargāya puroḍāśam aṣṭākapālam nirvapet।(Taitt) To Agni, the gatherer, offer a sacrificial cake on 8 potsherds. A salient point of the 
iṣṭi is when the cake is baked and brought to the altar, it is stroked with the ojo’si formula. Symbolically, the enemy’s power, force, might etc. are appropriated for oneself.

Notes from sūtras

āpastamba 19.25.9-12 and bodhāyana 13.35 provide additional details for the iṣṭi. One does not use the kindling verses (sāmidhenis) used in a prototypical iṣṭi. One uses the mantras starting with yukśvā hi devahūtamān (TS 2.6.11 a-k) as sāmidhenis
āpastamba clarifies that one should conclude with the usual verse ā juhotā duvasyata from taittiriya brāhmaṇa 3.5.2.3. The two beginning from kuvitsu no gaviṣṭaya (TS 2.6.11 l,m) form the invitation (puronuvākyā) and offering (yājyā) verses. However, bodhāyana says sakhāyaḥ saṁ vaḥ samyañcau and saṁ samid yuvase vr̥ṣan are puronuvākyā and yājyā. These are in TS 2.6.11. 
bodhāyana adds the additional line ahaṁ anena haviṣā amuṁ bhrātr̥vyaṁ abhibhūyāsaṁ after ojo’si formula. This roughly translates to “Through this offering let me aggress (or overcome) this enemy”.

Concluding remarks

For the dhārmika insider, the yajuṣ is a mantra seen by the devas themselves and has a foe overcoming aspect to it. It may do well for the daily performers of twilight worship to meditate on this and gain strength to overcome their civilizational enemies.


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