Regarding the gayatri mantra, here is an interesting old story:

My wife when she was a young girl spent many summer days visiting her cousins in a town in upstate New York [called Nyack].  The house that they lived in back then used to belong to a fellow who called himself "Oom the Omnipotent."  He was also known as Pierre Bernard.  He was a very popular yogi in New York in the early 20th century, attracting lots of wealthy ladies, especially young ones.  He was also the uncle of Theos Bernard, also a popular scholar of yoga.  A book was written a few years ago about Oom, or Pierre, and his scandalous life.  I have it somewhere but I can not find it.  For those who are curious to learn more about him, there is an article in Wikipedia.

These cousins knew about Oom's reputation and they knew that there was a Sanskrit inscription carved into a wooden beam somewhere in their house.  When they learned, 40 years ago, that I was a student of Sanskrit, they painstakingly copied the devanagari text and
mailed it to me.

It started: tat savitur varenyam ... etc.

Best wishes,


On Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 10:50 AM, George Thompson <> wrote:
Please read my note not as 'dhiyoh' but as ,dhiyah.'

On Tue, Jan 27, 2015 at 4:22 AM, George Thompson <> wrote:
Dear Michael,

Of course, you are right [as are Jamison and Brereton] that dhimasi in the gayatri mantra is derived from the root dhaa-, but the following word in this mantra is "dhiyoh."

This suggests to me that the author of RV 3.62.10 was engaged in some kind of word-play, or a wrong etymology.  In any case, it has been a memorable move.

On Mon, Jan 26, 2015 at 9:57 PM, Michael Witzel <> wrote:
Regarding the correct translation of the Gāyatrī, RV 3.62.10, see: 

(1) Witzel-Gotō, VdWR*, Dec. 2013 (sent to publisher already in the Summer of 2009 !):

"Dieses, des Gottes Savitar, 
wünschenswerte Licht möchten wir (in uns) setzen,
der unsere Eingebungen antreiben soll." 

= "We wish to put (into us) this desirable light of God Savitar, who shall instigate our insights."

(2) Jamison-Brereton, OUP,  (April 2014): 

"Might we make our own that desirable effulgence of god Savitar, who will rouse forth our insights."

Both recent translations take dhīmahi as Optative, as K. Hoffnann has indicated in his Injunktiv long ago (1967): dhīmahi is definitely not, as usually translated so far and also just now on this list, to be taken from dhī "think deeply"; later: "meditate"…

The subjunctive pracodayāt allows both translations:  "will / shall".  The choice is up to interpretation.

* VdWR; = Verlag de Weltreligionen, Frankfurt/Berlin: Der Rig-Veda, 1st vol 2007, 2nd vol. 2013; two more vols. to follow in due course; vols. Include detailed notes/commentary.


On Jan 26, 2015, at 3:08 PM, Patrick Olivelle wrote:

The latest and great translation by Joel Brereton and Stephanie Jamison translates: "Might we make our own that desirable effulgence of god Savitar, who will rouse forth our insights."

Patrick Olivelle

On Jan 26, 2015, at 1:45 PM, George Hart <> wrote:

It seems to me that the relative in the third line must make this one sentence, but I am not a Vedicist.  More interesting would be to know why the Gāyatrī became so important and omnipresent.  (One might also remark that it is emended to refer to Ganesha and other deities in almost every puja).  It’s rather nice, but there are many other Vedic verses that are just as nice.  What set this apart?  And why?  George
On Jan 26, 2015, at 11:38 AM, Nagaraj Paturi <> wrote:

Prof. Dipak Bhattacharya's response was :
A distant reflection of RV 3.62.10 : 'I meditate upon that adorable brilliance of the Begetter who may inspire our thoughts' ? 
The lines quoted were :
Lord, awaken us in a happy mood, and give us knowledge!


The Savitri/Gayatri mantra (excluding PraNava and vyAhritis) is :
tát savitúr váreṇ(i)yaṃ
bhárgo devásya dhīmahi
dhíyo yó naḥ prachodáyāt
Prof. Dipak's translation takes this as a single complex sentence with a relative clause. The quoted lines have two different sentences. Taking Savitri/Gayatri mantra as made up of two different sentences is found in Ralph T H Griffith.
I contributed the analysis of various meanings given to Gayatri mantra in the page There, I showed that taking the mantra as sAyaNa's  approach and taking it as two different sentences as Griffith's approach.
I tabulated the analysis as follows :
Sir William Jones1807"Let us adore the supremacy of that divine sun, the god-head who illuminates all, who recreates all, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, whom we invoke to direct our understandings aright in our progress toward his holy seat."[14]Savita is taken as the Sun, Like Sayana the whole mantra is taken as one single sentence with a relative clause.
William Quan Judge1893"Unveil, O Thou who givest sustenance to the Universe, from whom all proceed, to whom all must return, that face of the True Sun now hidden by a vase of golden light, that we may see the truth and do our whole duty on our journey to thy sacred seat."[15]Sir William Jones is followed
Sivanath Sastri (Brahmo Samaj)1911"We meditate on the worshipable power and glory of Him who has created the earth, the nether world and the heavens (i.e. the universe), and who directs our understanding."[16]Bhur Bhuvuh Svah is taken as part of the Mantra, Like Sayana the whole mantra is taken as one single sentence with a relative clause.
Swami Vivekananda1915"We meditate on the glory of that Being who has produced this universe; may He enlighten our minds."[17]Like Griffith, takes the mantra as made up of two different sentences unlike Sayana or Sir William Jones
S. Radhakrishnan1947, 1953
  1. " We meditate on the effulgent glory of the divine Light; may he inspire our understanding."[18]
  2. "We meditate on the adorable glory of the radiant sun; may he inspire our intelligence."[19]
Like Griffith, takes the mantra as made up of two different sentences unlike Sayana or Sir William Jones

Prof.Nagaraj Paturi
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Michael Witzel
Wales Prof. of Sanskrit,
Dept. of South Asian Studies, Harvard University
1 Bow Street,
Cambridge MA 02138, USA

phone: 1- 617 - 495 3295, fax 617 - 496 8571;
direct line:  617- 496 2990

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