If you think Sandhyavandanam is religious, think again. In this ancient culture nothing was a commandment, nor was anything religious. Associating Sandhyavandanam to any particular religion or belief is like associating natural resources to a particular religion. Iterating again, there is no concept of religion in this nation. Coming back to Sandhyavandanam; it is a salutation process to Sun god, which is to be followed on a daily basis, at least twice, if not thrice. Let us get into the details from a scientific and philosophical perspective.
The main part of Sadhyavandanam is Gayatri Mantra Japam. Let us first find out how in this Kalpa (a timeline where we are born), we were given with this austerity mantra.
1. Brahmarshi Vishwamitra and Gayatri Mantram
Vishwamintra was a king, who traveled to a forest with his numerous retinue. He was privileged to find the hermitage of Sage Vasishta. Vasishta, already, had attained the highest position among the sages. He was amongst the most revered sages and was entitled the title Maharshi. King Vishwamitra was well received by the Maharshi. However, king Vishwamitra was not too happy about the number of people he had brought into the sage’s hermit. So, he thought to himself, how can the Maharshi feed so many people.
Maharshi Vasishta whispered something into the ears of the holy cow a resident of his hermitage and viola, there was a lot of food for all the people to eat. This lead Vishwamitra to a desire of having the cow in his kingdom. But Vasishta was reluctant in handing over the cow. An argument broke out between the Maharshi and the king. After a long heated argument, the king accepted the defeat and left the place.
The thought about the holy cow kept iterating in the mind of the King. So, he decided to renounce everything and went to a forest to become an enlightened one. He started meditating, but his meditations saw a lot of obstacles like seduction by an apsara called Menaka. Each time the obstacle had to be overcome by beginning the penance all over again. Even then Vishwamitra overcame all his desires to which Lord Brahma granted the title Brahmarshi. In addition to that, he added a condition that getting the blessings from Vasishta would fetch him the title Brahmarshi.
Left with no choice, he revisited the hermitage of Vasishta. On reaching the place, he heard Sage Vasishta speaking to his wife Arundhati about his indirect encouragement throughout Vishwamitra’s journey. Ashamed of his false prestige, he immediately went and touched the feet of Vasishta. This induced divine current in him, which led to the rise of the Gayatri Mantra. His goal of becoming Brahmarshi was also fulfilled.
2. Gayatri Mantra, Meaning and Benefit
Now that the Gayatri Mantra was introduced to the world by Brahmarshi Vishwamitra, let us know a little more about Gayatri Mantra before understanding the aspects of Sandhyavandanam.
ॐ भूर् भुवः सुवः ।
भर्गो॑ दे॒वस्य॑धीमहि ।
धियो॒ यो नः॑ प्रचो॒दया॑त् ॥
oṃ bhūr bhuvaḥ suvaḥ
dhiyo yo naḥ prachodayāt
– Rig Veda 3.62.10
Thomas Ashley-Farrand’s translation of the Gayatri mantra:
“O Self-effulgent Light that has given birth to all the Lokas [spheres of consciousness], who is worthy of worship and appears through the orbit of the Sun, illumine our intellect.”
Vishwamitra after getting to know about the Gayatri Mantra, observing the entire living beings on the earth understood that to get exposed to the sun is very important and the sun acts as a life-giving medicine that we will understand later in the coming sections. This leads to the discovery of Sandhyavandanam, in simple terms, a specific way to salute the Sun.
3. Scriptural References of Sandhyavandanam
The references for Sandhyavandanam date back to the Vedas.
- The procedure of Worship: Second Prasna, Second Anuvaka of Taittiriya Aranyaka (Yajur Veda)
- Ishvashya Upanishad of Shukla Yajurveda also refers to Sun worship as above at sunrise and sunset
- Chandogya Upanishad (Chapter 2 Section 6) discusses “Aditya vidya” explaining the importance of meditation of Sun or Aditya at sunrise and sunset
- Chapter 3, Section 12 of this Upanishad explains meditation of Aditya through Gayatri. It also explains that the sun in the horizon outside and the sun element inside us are one and the same and there is no difference
- These views are also echoed in Aditya Hridaya of the Yuddakanda of Ramayan
4. The philosophical meaning of Sandhyavandanam
When the universe was formed and all heavenly bodies took their births and places, each heavenly body close to the life on earth was assigned a duty. It was the duty of the Sun to take care of the health of the souls (Chetanas). He (the sun) accomplishes this using his two main pure Satwik characteristics.
- Prakasha – the enormous brightness that he possesses
- Laghu – the quality of him being light
This is evident in every individual on earth. However, due to the negative characteristics (Rajas and Tamas) that an individual possesses that these universally positive qualities gets subdued or become invisible. This is where Sandhyavandanam comes in handy, by providing an apt environment to culture these elements so that they flourish.
Arghya is the process of getting Aditya (another name for the sun) enabled in us. The qualities that this process enables in us are
- Health preserving the quality of both body and mind
- Light body
- High intellect
- Grasping power
- High intuition
- Memory power
How to offer Arghya for its utmost benefits
Vedas are the sources for many such natural resources that we worship. Like most of the living beings on earth, human beings also need sunlight to remove the demonly qualities from within. These demons are referred to as the Mandehasuras. The beauty of the Vedas lies in its tripartite meanings. Therefore, the Vedas are also referred to as Trayi. That means there are three meanings for any given statement.
Most of the times we concentrate more on the internal and external, by completely ignoring the third and important one, Philosophical. Here the philosophical meaning of the statement takes us to the understanding of Mandehasuras. They are the demons that are built-in as an extra layer clouded by Rajoguna and Tamoguna.
- Mama + Deha = Mandeha
- Mandeha + Asuras = Mandehasuras
The Arghyams act as an element that frees us from these asuras (Rajo and Tamo Gunas) enabling us to enjoy a happier life.
5. Sandhyavandanam Template
- Sankalpam – Resolution or Focus for future
- Prokshanam/Prasanam – Purification both externally and internally
- Arghya Pradhanam – Offering to Sun – Bring Light / Eliminate Darkness
- Prayaschita Arghyam – Apology on delay
- Aditya/KeshavAadi Tharpanam – Thanks for the Benefits received
- Gayatri Japam – Invoking/Bringing in the Lord and Meditating
- Upasthanam – God presence realization
- Dikdevata-Vandanam – Salutation to direction gods
- Abhivadanam – Introducing yourself
- Samarpanam – Completing the ritual
6. Sandhyavandanam Eligibility
Anybody who has undergone Upanayanam is eligible to do Sandhyavandanam. As a matter of fact, in the ancient days, in India, people used to move out of their houses at the age of seven. This is when they went out to attend the schools called Gurukuls. These Gurukuls used to be the hermitages, where the Gurus used to live and the Students used to stay and learn.
According to the tradition, before attending the Gurukul, children, as they grew up, at seven, were eligible for Upanayanam. They were to wear the sacred thread and go to the Gurukuls to learn and get exposed to Vedas. They are called as Dwijas.
Dwija is a person who has taken birth twice. Again going back on the three meaning that some statements possess, internal, external and philosophical, let us understand the philosophical meaning of this statement.
Dwija is a person
- Who takes birth for the first time physically
- Who takes birth for the second time when he undergoes the rite of passage that initiates him to the school of Vedic studies
- Who wears a sacred thread going around his body from the left to navel back to left shoulder via the back
The Yajnopavita or the Sacred Thread
- It is a thread with three strands for seekers who are not yet married
- Each strand contains three threads within that, which corresponds to the nine deities (Prithvi, Aapa, Tejas, Vayu, Ether, Prana, Atman, Antaratman, Paramatman)
- The three strands also represent Satwa, Rajas, and Tamas of an individual
- Sattwa character is improved by wearing Yajnopavita and gets recharged through the recitation of Gayatri Japam everyday
- There is a knot in the thread that comprises of the three words of Pranava – Aa (denoting Lord Vishnu), Uu (denoting Goddess Lakshmi) and Ma (denoting the Soul or Self)
Criteria to perform Sandhyavandanam for its benefits
- Upanayanam is the biggest criteria to filter out children below the age of seven
- A person who is in the path of Brahma or truth
- Who is a seeker and wants to learn the absolute truth
Beneficial timing to perform Sandhyavandanam
As per what is prescribed in the Vedas, the prayers have to be performed at the time of Sunrise and Sunset.
- Sunrise – Constitutes change from darkness to light (time of junction). This time of the day is called as Pratah Sandhya
- Sunset – Constitutes change from light to darkness (again a time of junction). This time of the days is referred to as Sayam Sandhya
- Midday – In addition to the Pratah Sandhya and Sayam Sandhya this is when there is a change from an ascending sun to a descending sun in the sky
Best: when performed before sunrise and stars are visible
Average: when performed before sunrise and stars are not visible
Poor: when performed after sunrise and stars are not visible
Best: when performed before sunset and stars are not visible
Average: when performed before sunset and stars are visible
Poor: when performed after sunset and stars are visible
How much time before sunrise and Sunset
According to the Vedas, one day (sunrise to sunset) is divided into five parts
Under Indian conditions, one-fifth part of a day or night varies anywhere between two hours and ten minutes to two hours twenty minutes.
7. Materials for Sandhyavandanam and their benefits
We have written articles on food culture and have mentioned about the utensils and cookware that were used in the kitchen in ancient Indian culture. The same utensils are used in Sandhyavandanam too. The water used as a part of the Sandhyavandanam is used in one of the below-mentioned metals
Preferably Copper or Silver.
You can read more about utensils and cookware from this link.
While considering clothes, we should remember the following things.
- While we perform Sandhyavandanam a kind of bioelectricity is produced from within
- The performer of Sandhyavandanam will have to follow different postures
- Water will be used extensively throughout Sandhyavandanam
In view of the above points, it is not advisable to use Wool or Silk because they are not good conductors of bioelectricity. On the contrary cotton cloth is. Therefore the usage of cotton especially during performing Sandhyavandanam is apt.
The very reason for performing Sandhyavandanam was to get exposed to Sun. So it is an obvious thing to perform it outdoors. There are two parts of Sandhyavandanam.
- Purvangam (the first part) – has to be performed in the outdoors
- Uttarangam (the second part) – preferable performed in the outdoors, but is allowed to be performed indoors.
Directions play an important role while performing Sandhyavandanam because the earth and many other heavenly bodies comprise of magnetic fields and there is a particular direction for sun-set and sun-rise.
Below are given the directions of the Sandhyavanadams according to their time
- Pratah Sandhyavandanam – Facing East
- Madhyanhakam – Facing East or North
- Sayam Sandhyavandanam – Facing East until Arghya Pradanam and facing West after
8. Exceptions for Sandhyavandam timing and others
There are certain exceptions for prerequisites before performing Sandhyavandanam.
There are different types of Snanam that are prerequisites for performing Sandhyavandanam. However, there could be instances where this cannot be achieved. Varuna Snanam is something that cannot be done under every circumstance. To the relief of the performer, there is some relaxation that Vedas offer. This can be achieved using Manasika Snanam. This is when Manasika Snanam is suggested. Manasika Snana is performed mentally imagining the lotus feet of the Lord is on your head and water from his feet is flowing all over the body. This is done by reciting the below hymn which is incidentally the very first hymn of Sandhyavandanam.
ॐ अपवित्र: पवित्रो वा सर्वावस्थां गतोअपी वा |
य: स्मरेत पुण्डरीकाक्षं स बाहान्तर : शुचि: ||
This means “One who meditates on Pundarikaksha is cleaned both internally and externally irrespective of the purity earlier.
When water is sprinkled on the head while reciting hymns.
When the performer is traveling or not well. This type of exception of performing even without water. Just with the help of thought and hymns, this kind of Sandhyavandanam is performed.
9. Sandhyavandana Mantras and their benefits
- Mantras are a collection of words formed in a specific form
- They have mystical powers when pronounced in the right way
- Our body can receive cosmic energy that is spread across the universe when tuned by reciting mantras the right way
- Matras has not been written by any ordinary human beings, they were accessed by the great sages through meditation
- Mantras have a specific Chandas in some cases and Swaras in some other cases, that can create wonders in our body with their vibrations
- There are specific alphabets that have to be pronounced rightly like
- Hraswa (Short)
- Deergha (Long)
- Alpaprana (less weight)
- Mahaprana (heavy weight)
- The vibration characteristics of these mantras are made by choosing the right ones in the right places. This is the basis for creating ragas by combining different notes
- Every mantra is associated with a sage and is preceded by a verse indicating their names, Chandas, the deity to whom it is addressed to and the purpose for which the mantra is used
10. Science of bioelectricity behind Sandhyavandanam
We all know that we possess electricity that flows through us. This is what is represented in the ECG, i.e. Electrocardiogram. Since this electricity is a part of our body, it is referred to as bioelectricity.
- This electricity passes through ten sets of lines corresponding to ten fingers and toes
- The terminal points for this are fingertips, toes and in the top, head
- The bioelectricity gets charged through water, ether, earth, fire, etc.
- There are a set of actions associated with Sandhyavandanam along with the recitation of the Vedas
- Above all, our body has a self-healing property that can cure by itself most of the diseases. Moreover, if the bio-electricity in the body is flowing rightly, the body remains fit and healthy
- This flow of bioelectricity within our body causes emission of electrons that are responsible for the aura that is produced as an outcome of this
- This bioelectricity has to be regulated through an electromagnetic environment, which is written in detail in Vastu Shastra
- An advanced version of such healing is also known as pranic healing which was developed by Choa Kok Sui
- Any disease first enters our bioplasmic body and then enters the physical body. If the rectification happens at the source, which is the bioplasmic body, through induction of bio-energy at specific known points called chakras
- Remedies include use of energized water
- Meditation has a great influence on the bioplasmic body as the brain cells are also known to produce electric waves of different frequencies
- One more ancient therapy system called acupressure recognizes our endpoints such as fingertips as control boards for manipulation and regulation of bio-electricity
11. Sound and energy for the beneficial Performer
In recent times scientists have experimented using water bypassing sound vibration through it. This has resulted in the production of air bubbles emitting blue light with high temperatures inside the water. These experiments indicate the capacity of sound waves to energize water.
In the same way, when the rhythmic sound waves of the Vedas, enter the water that is stored in metals that are good conductors of electricity, the water is energized on the spot. An event called Udakashanti is an event that does exactly the same thing. A miniature of this is experienced in the daily Sandhyavandanam that has a great effect on us since it is performed on a regular basis.
Vedic rituals like Pranayama, Achamanam are extremely important small parts of Sandhyavandanam that regulate the bio-electricity in us. The time that we do makes the process seamless changing us internally faster.