Gayatri is said to have five faces and hence is called Panchamukhi. Is there anybody in the world with five faces? No. In the Ramayana, Ravana is said to have ten heads. If really he had ten heads, how would he be able to lie in his bed or move about? This is not the inner meaning of this description. He is said to be ten-headed because he was the master of the four Vedas and the six Sastras.
Likewise, Gayatri is described as five-faced. The five faces are as follows.
1.Om (the Pranava). The Pranava Principle represents the eight different forms of wealth (ashta-aishvarya).
2. Bhur Bhuvas Suvah.
4.Bhargo Dhevasya dheemahi.
5.Dheyo yo hah prachodayaath.
When the Gayatri mantra is understood in this way, it will be realised that all the five aspects of Gayatri are within each of us.
Gayatri represents in these five faces the five pranas (life forces). Gayatri is the protector of the five pranas in man.
“Gayantham thrayathe ithi Gaytri (Because it protects the one who recites it, it is called Gayatri.” When Gayatri acts as protector of the life-forces, she is known as Savitri. Savitri is known in the puranic story as the devoted wife who brought back to life her husband, Sathyavan. Savitri is the presiding deity of the five pranas. She protects those who lead a life of Truth.
Gayatri has five faces and is the embodiment of all deities –Sarva devatha Swarupam
The Gayatri Mantra
“Om Bhur Buvaha Suvaha
Thath Savithur Varenyam
Bhargo Devasya Dheemahi
Dhiyo Yonaha Prachodayath”
The First Word Om (Aum)
It is also called Pranav because its sound emanates from the Prana (vital vibration), which feels the Universe. The scripture says “Aum Iti Ek Akshara Brahman” (Aum that one syllable is Brahman).
When you pronounce AUM:
A – emerges from the throat, originating in the region of the navel
U – rolls over the tongue
M – ends on the lips
A – waking, U – dreaming, M – sleeping
It is the sum and substance of all the words that can emanate from the human throat. It is the primordial fundamental sound symbolic of the Universal Absolute.
The “Vyahrities”: Bhuh, Bhuvah & Svah
The above three words of the Gayatri, which literally means “past,” “present,” and “future,” are called Vyahrities. Vyahriti is that which gives knowledge of entire cosmos or “ahriti”. The scripture says: “Visheshenh Aahritih sarva viraat, praahlaanam prakashokaranh vyahritih”. Thus, by uttering these three words, the chanter contemplates the Glory of God that illumines the three worlds or the regions of experience.
The Remaining Words
Tat simply means “that” because it defies description through speech or language, the “Ultimate Reality.”
Savitur means “Divine Sun” (the ultimate light of wisdom) not to be confused with the ordinary sun.
Varenium means “adore”
Bhargo means “illumination”
Devasya means “Divine Grace”
Dheemahi means “we contemplate”
Dhi means intellect
Yo means “who”
Nah means “ours”
Prachodayat means “requesting / urging / praying”
The last five words constitute the prayer for final liberation through the awakening of our true intelligence.
Finally, it needs to be mentioned that there are a number of meanings of the three main words of this mantra given in the scriptures:
Various meanings of the words used in the Gayatri Mantra
Bhuh Bhuvah Svah
Earth Atmosphere Beyond Atmosphere
Past Present Future
Morning Noon Evening
Tamas Rajas Sattwa
Gross Subtle Causal
In the practice of the Gayatri mantra, one should realise that everything is within one and thereby develop confidence in the Self.