Gāyatrī - Mantra and Mother of the Vedas

14.12.2018

Dominik A. Haas

  • Supervision: Marion Rastelli

The short mantra popularly called Gāyatrī or Sāvitrī 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.) how it developed into an independent deity and (4.) how these processes interacted and influenced each other. The Gāyatrī mantra as a goddess first appears in the legend of Sāvitrī in the Mahābhārata as well as in several legends and hymns in late Epic and Purāṇic literature from about the 4th cent. CE or earlier onwards, often as the so-called “Mother of the Vedas.” In several younger texts, we also find a more elaborate, Tantric conceptualization of the Gāyatrī, most prominently in the Gāyatrī Tantra (c. 10th–11th cent. CE). This study will focus on the complex relationships between the Gāyatrī metre, the (Gāyatrī/Sāvitrī) mantra, the mantra’s literal meaning and ritual function, and the mythical and literary character and deity in Vedic and Sanskrit literature up to approximately the 10th cent. CE.

Keywords: History of Religions • Hinduism • Veda • Tantra • Mantra • Goddess worship

For the project proposal, go to https://doi.org/10.25365/phaidra.103.

For the author, go to https://univie.academia.edu/DominikHaas and https://orcid.org/0000-0002-8505-6112.