Vedic Prayers: Rishi, Devata and Chhandas

Sanatana Dharma, commonly known as Hinduism, finds its foundation primarily in the Vedas. Hinduism is therefore described as वैदिक मतं “that which is based upon the Vedas.” The Vedas, comprising four primary texts—Rigveda, Yajurveda, Samaveda, and Atharvaveda—form the cornerstone of Hindu philosophy and practice. Each Veda is divided into two main sections: the mantra section, known as Samhitas, containing hymns and prayers, and the prose section, referred to as Brahmanas, which elucidates rituals and ceremonies.

Since ancient times, men and women have recited mantras to attain material prosperity and spiritual well-being. Even in contemporary times, many spiritual traditions utilize mantras as potent instruments for spiritual growth. The efficacy of mantra recitation is heightened when one comprehends their meanings.

A mantra is defined as मननात् त्रायते इति मन्त्रः “That which protects when contemplated upon.” Mantras have the power to invoke various devatas (deities) and are sung to praise them with diverse objectives in mind.

A collection of mantras is termed a sukta, encompassing four essential components:

  1. The rishi is the seer or sage that composed the sukta.
  2. The devata refers to the deity or god invoked by the sukta.
  3. The chhandas represent the meter or rhythm of the mantra-verse.
  4. The viniyoga delineates the ritualistic applications or purposes of the sukta.


In the strictest sense, a rishi denotes an individual of profound spiritual wisdom who has transcended samsara (the cycle of birth and rebirth). This elevated state is attainable through dedicated spiritual endeavor. 

Various terms denote different types of rishis: Devarshi, honored by the gods; Brahmarshi, having realized Brahman or possessing expertise in the Vedas; Rajarshi, a king with elevated spiritual realization; and Maharshi, representing the pinnacle of rishihood, denoting a profoundly great sage.


Devatas embody specific facets of Cosmic Consciousness, representing various aspects of creation. In the worldview where all existence stems from Consciousness, everything, be it animate or inanimate, emotions or natural elements, is deemed worthy of reverence. Each aspect of existence is associated with a devata, whether or not they possess anthropomorphic forms.


Chhandas refers to the meters used in poetry, with Vedic prosody known as Chhandas-sastra. As one of the six Vedangas, or ancillary disciplines of Vedic studies, it deals with the structure of poetic meters. These meters typically comprise one to five padas (divisions), each characterized by a specific number of letters.

Before chanting Vedic mantras, it is customary to honor the rishi who revealed the mantra, the poetic meter (chhandas) in which it is composed, and the deity to whom it is addressed. elucidates the meanings of several frequently recited Vedic mantras, drawing from the commentary of Sayanacharya, a distinguished Sanskrit scholar of the Vijayanagara Empire renowned for his authoritative explanations of the Vedas, grammar, medicine, and more.

Why Hindu

We, a group of youths born into Hindu families, were raised in the rich culture of Vedic Sanatan Dharma, embracing its cultures and traditions. Post-graduation, recognizing the immense value of our Sanatan Dharma for humanity, we initiated the "Why Hindu" project. With guidance from our elders, we aim to create awareness about Hindu Dharma, delve into Vedic scripture, explore Vedic mantras, and elucidate the significance of festivals. Through this endeavor, we strive to share the profound teachings of our heritage, fostering understanding and appreciation for the timeless principles of Sanatan Dharma.

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