Women, Anandamayi Ma and the Gayatri Mantra
In 1936 in Varanasi, Anandamayi Ma announced her desire to give Gayatri mantra initiation to two of her female disciples. This would be the first public initiation of women into the Gayatri mantra in hundreds of years — and it was captured on film.
The Gayatri mantra is one of the great Shakti mantras of the Vedic tradition. The Gayatri guides us to experience the infinite manifestations of our world (Shakti) as non-different from the effulgent light of cosmic wisdom (Shiva). We can find the Sun (the light of consciousness) in all. There is no division between consciousness and energy or spirit and matter. There is nothing to transcend other than our own blindness.
Through chanting the Gayatri, the entire process of creation comes alive, and we can directly experience the eternal marriage of creative power and consciousness that is our world and our very Self.
In Vedic times, the Gayatri was chanted by both women and men. But as time went by, the exclusively male Brahmin priest class in India claimed for themselves the sole right to perform Vedic rituals and chant Vedic mantras.
The Gayatri became the chief among all of the mantras forbidden to women. The coming of age of young Brahmin boys was, and still is, marked by an initiation into the Gayatri and investiture of the thread ceremony. During this ceremony, a young Brahmin boy receives a tri-part thread to wear across his body for the remainder of his life, and he begins the daily practice of reciting the Gayatri, among other duties.
In 1936, Anandamayi Ma stated her intention to give the Gayatri mantra and the sacred thread to two of her female disciples – Gurupriya Devi and Maronidi. Inquiries were made among the pandits of Varanasi. They agreed that women had been invested with the thread in ancient times, but what about now?
Finally, most highly respected among them decided the matter. He said: ‘If Ma so desires, She can give the sacred thread to women even now. Ma’s will is scriptural. No other opinion is necessary.’
The magnificent footage below shows this historic initiation taking place.