Can women also chant the Gayatri Mantra?
First of all, I must tell you, the question is worded wrong.
You should not say, ‘also’ chant the Gayatri Mantra. Of course, women are entitled to chant the Gayatri Mantra. In olden days, in the Vedic times, great rishis like Gargi, for example, would have chanted the Gayatri Mantra.
Again, if you look into the Valmiki Ramayana, you will find an instance when Lakshmana comes to see Sita, his sister-in-law, and meets Rama coming out of the house and tells him that he would like to see her. Rama says, “Lakshmana, don’t you know that this is time for Sandhya Vandana. Let your sister-in-law be engaged in Sandhya Vandana“. What does that mean?
Sandhya Vandana includes the Gayatri. You cannot have Sandhya Vandana without the Gayatri. So my understanding is this, I think that the great Swami Dayananda Saraswati who founded the Arya Samaj will concur with me, that the Gayatri is a beautiful mantra, which can be chanted by anyone, irrespective of sex, caste or creed and I am also of the firm belief that caste originally was based on one’s aptitude and not by birth.
Of course when the parents have certain aptitude and/or the ancestors have a certain aptitude, it is quite likely, that the generations that come after them will have some of the aptitudes, quite possible.
“The Gayatri Mantra should be chanted by everyone irrespective of sex, caste or creed provided they follow the ground rules of doing good to others, not causing harm to others and so on, because a mantra can build up power and power should also go with responsibility.”
But, if they don’t, they are not qualified to be included in that group.
So, I think, the theory that only Brahmins should chant the Gayatri, was based on the Brahminical attributes of a person and not just because one is born a Brahmin.
Even Manu goes to the extent of saying that a person who is born a Brahmin and does not practice the qualities of a Brahmin should be called a Brahmin vandu and not even a Brahmin. Since the Gayatri was written in Sanskrit, and except for a certain guru, most people did not know Sanskrit, it probably became a kind of exclusive mantra used by those who knew the language.
It gradually became right by succession.
The other day, a lady asked me–Why is it that women are not allowed to chant the Gayatri? I said the mantra is a prayer for stimulating your intelligence, and if all the women’s intelligence is stimulated, who would cook in the kitchen? It’s a joke, but it sort of points out, quite possibly, why women were not allowed to chant it.
However, I would say that it’s a mantra that should be chanted by everyone irrespective of sex, caste or creed provided they follow the ground rules of doing good to others, not causing harm to others and so on, because a mantra can build up power and power should also go with responsibility.