Gayatri - Mantra and Mother of the Vedas


Dominik Haas

  • Supervision: Marion Rastelli

The short mantra popularly called Gāyatrī certainly belongs to the most frequently used and reused texts of mankind. In the course of time it even came to be venerated as a goddess itself. The aim of this study is (1.) to investigate how the mantra gained prominence as a religious text, (2.) how it was deified and (3.) developed into an independent deity and (4.) how these processes interacted and influenced each other. The Gāyatrī is first portrayed as a goddess in several hymns in late Epic and Purāṇic literature from approximately the 4th cent. CE onwards, often as the so-called “Mother of the Vedas.” In several younger texts, we also find a more elaborate, Tantric conception of the Gāyatrī, most prominently in the Gāyatrī Tantra (c. 10th–11th cent. CE). This study will focus on the meaning of the process of the deification of the mantra for those who began to venerate it as a goddess, and how this goddess was related to the ritual uses and the meaning of the mantra.