The Gayatri Mantra, Only For Men?

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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.

See also:

33 Benefits That Singing the Gayatri Mantra Brings About

32 Unusual Ways to Bring Abundance Into Our Lives

21 Things To Know Before Starting An Ashtanga Yoga Practice {Free Book}

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    anonymous Jun 27, 2014 3:46pm

    Claudia,
    I checked various sites, and I don't see why women cannot chant it. For example, see the following meditation technique and the underlying meaning of the mantra. It is clear that the meaning of the mantra is gender-neutral. It is gender-neutral because, as explained, it is chanted for the benefit for all of us.
    http://chakrabarty.com/blog/gayatri_mantra_full_l

    Bob Weisenberg Jun 14, 2011 10:12pm

    Just posted to "Popular Lately" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    anonymous Jun 14, 2011 12:48pm

    Thank you Bob

    Bob Weisenberg Jun 14, 2011 8:15am

    Just posted to "Featured Today" on the Elephant Yoga homepage.

    Bob W. Yoga Editor
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    anonymous Jun 13, 2011 3:53pm

    Here's a nice thread lifted from Hinduism Today a while back on the subject. http://www.kishore.org/2006/12/29/who-can-chant-g
    The Shankaracharya makes a good, if orthodox point—that "common people" (house-holders) need to chant these mantras in a very careful way. Certainly anyone, man, woman or child, should feel free to chant Gayatri. But we should always remember that the mantras are powerful and sacred and we should not chant them in a cavalier way, for entertainment, or to impress others. Also, the proper pronunciation of Sanskrit mantas is extremely important, and unfortunately the transliteration system causes a lot of westerners to mispronounce them. You really need to learn how to read Sanskrit (from a qualified teacher, it can't be learned from a book) in order to properly articulate the subtle inflections of those mantras. But until then, just do your best and know that Gayatri mantra is the energy of the sun. The sun shines on everyone, as they say, so we can chant this mantra.

    love,
    Prajna

      anonymous Jun 15, 2011 6:29pm

      Thank you for that Prajna, and yes, the sun shines on everyone indeed 🙂

    anonymous Jun 13, 2011 5:20am

    Interesting! Well, I am glad the evolution is taking place because I love this mantra. 🙂

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Assoc. Yoga Editor
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      anonymous Jun 13, 2011 9:11am

      Hi Tanya, me too, it is beautiful, and pretty powerful…

    anonymous Jun 12, 2011 12:51pm

    Another interesting example of how women are excluded from their own beliefs based on traditions that grew out of male dominance as opposed to any real "scripture".

      anonymous Jun 13, 2011 4:02am

      Annie, thanks for your comment, and yes, good thing that now knowledge is so widely available, we are lucky to live in these times 🙂

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    Claudia Azula Altucher

    Claudia Azula Altucher has studied yoga for a long time. Her only focus these past eight years has been on Ashtanga through which she studied at the Ashtanga Yoga Research Institute in Mysore, India (three study visits so far), and at Centered Yoga in Thailand (focus on practice, philosophy and pranayama).

    Currently she studies at Pure Yoga in NYC. She has taught yoga classes in both Spanish and English.
    She is also the Author of: 21 Things To Know Before Starting an Ashtanga Yoga Practice (you can get a free PDF at her blog). She writes daily at ClaudiaYoga.com And you can follow her on Twitter: www.twitter.com/ClaudiaYoga