Question: What is the basis of words in Gayatri Mantra adding upto 24 letters
Ans. The confusion about Gayatri Mantra having a total of 23 letters only, arises mainly because of the word Nayam in Varenyam. In the composition of the Richas (couplets) of Veda s, meanings are subordinate to the syntax of words, which is according to specified musical notations. The chhandas (components of Veda s classified according to number of letters) in the Veda s are composed keeping in view the symphony to be created by the succession of words for a desired objective. Musicians change the pitch and duration of the tones to conform to a Raga. The mystery of difference between the “written” and pronounced Nyam in the Mantra lies in its sonic effect. In this way considering Nyam as a composite of Ni and Yam according to their musical notation, the first, second and third segments of the Mantra add up to 8 words each. Adya Shankaracharya endorses this view. The Pingal Shastra and Mantrartha Chandrodaya also support the grammatical conformity of Gayatri Mantra on the same principle. In this way, the letters in the Mantra are to be counted as follows:
TAT SA VI TU VAR RE NI YAM BHA RGO DE VASYA DHI 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1
MA HI DHI YO YO NAH PRA CHO DA YAT 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 = 24
For further reference please refer to the monthly periodical Akhand Jyoti , May 1983 issue.