Someone identified as anonymous commented in one of my posts at the blog that the Gayatri -a highly revered mantra- is traditionally not to be recited by women. He posted the comment in all fairness and in a sweet manner. This is what he said:
Traditionally Gayatri mantra is not for women. And if done, this is the only one that requires the person to take a shower before and wear clean, washed clothes and also at sun rise, noon, sun set. Any other chant can be performed any time because one can think of god any given time. Just something I know coming from a very traditional background and wanted to share.
My knowledge of this mantra, I admit, is limited as I only know what I read in books, what I learned from a few teachers, and what I can piece together from the sources available. So I replied to him in the spirit of inquiry and asked whether this was written in scriptures or where did he hear that. He never replied. However, other people did:
A fellow yogi pointed out the wikki definition which states that in Hinduism the mantra is traditionally sang by males brahmins – but that modern Hindu reform movements have spread the practice to include women and all casts.
Another woman who has been born and raised in India gave a more personal account, out of the comment I took notice of this part:
“.… A Hindu brahmin male, at a young age is initiated into the study of Vedas… An important part of this ceremony is where the father of the boy recites the gayatri mantra in the boy’s ear several times… As a young girl, when I went to the upanyam of a cousin and asked my mom to tell me the secret mantra that was being recited in my cousin’s ear, I was told that women should not chant the mantra even if they know it. Yoga asanas and especially the Surya Namaskara was also traditionally practised only by brahmin males. Though this privilege is not explicitly mentioned in any of the scriptures as far as I know.“
She concluded that the upper casts of India wanted to hold on to the power brought about by the mantra and perhaps this is the reason why it was not shared. God bless them for trying!
Perhaps the only thing we lack these days is personal experience of its power. May we all benefit!
Here is a YouTube version of the mantra, sang 27 times which I enjoy listening to.
Here is also a link to Srivatsa Ramaswami teaching the chant line by line.