There is a sun mantra called Gāyatrī Mantra. There are a few literal translations, including the following by Sri Aurobindo:

We choose the Supreme Light of the divine Sun; we aspire that it may impel our minds.

How might we express this meaning, this particular translation, through Latin? I'm considering a tattoo of it, and I don't want to rely on Google Translate for it 😋 Thank you in advance.


I would propose the following translation:

Eligimus summam lucem divini solis; animos nostros impellat.

For "divine," I took the easy route and used divinus. It seems to carry the secondary meaning "sublime" better than plain divus, for example. Also, it seems to have been used in conjunction with sol at times.

For the curious English "impel," I also took the easy route and just went with the Latin cognate impellere, which fits well in context ("to push, set in motion, give an impulse").

I did not translate "we aspire that." It does not appear to be found in the original and I noted that the other translations generally only say "may it inspire" etc. It is perhaps an explanatory addition by the translator. Usually one aspires to something that would be a personal achievement (an honour or office, skills, etc.). Perhaps the translator wants to indicate that it would be someone's personal achievement if his mind is so "impelled". If you think it is important and want to include it, I suggest the verb spectare, which of course basically means "to look at," but with an ut clause, "to aim, strive, endeavour." Then the sentence becomes:

Eligimus summam lucem divini solis; spectamus ut animos nostros impellat.


I don't think there is a genuinely good way to answer your question as originally posed (I noticed that you changed it to be about a translation of the English translation, not about translating the mantra itself).

Firstly, note that any Latin translation of the English translation given would be just that – a translation of a translation. It would certainly not be a translation of the Gāyatrī mantra in any meaningful sense. To understand why that is, just look at the list of translations given in the article you linked, and note how different they are. Choosing one and translating it into Latin is bound to lose a lot of the meaning of the original mantra, which could have been translated into English in all of those other ways.

Secondly, I would question that it makes sense to translate a mantra, which is meant to be chanted and whose sound is an important part of its overall significance. Of course, a translation into English (or any other modern language) makes sense but only in the context of aiding understanding. I don't see how a Latin translation would fulfill that role (except if it were used to explain the mantra in a scholarly article written in Latin).

Thirdly, neither Sanskrit nor Latin are culturally neutral languages. Latin is the language of classical antiquity, medieval scholasticism, renaissance humanism, the Catholic Church, and the Civil Law tradition. Sanskrit is the language of the Vedas, of the Bhagavad Gita, of the Mahabharata, and of Indian scholarship. Translating a text (and particularly a text with religious significance) from one of these into the other is not to be undertaken lightly, as it carries a lot of cultural and historical baggage. An indirect translation via English certainly isn't the way to go about a task of that size.

That being said, one might try to translate from a truly word-by-word (interlinear) translation something more or less as follows: illius solis creatoris eligimus lumen divini gloriosum; ut mentes nostras impellat (where I have chosen to resolve the apparent ambiguity in the translations of savitur by rendering it by both sol–sun and creator–creator). But I still wouldn't really want to call that a translation of the mantra.

  • Where are you getting the final sense from, though? It does not seem to be in any of the translations -- I cannot comment on the original Sanskrit. – Sebastian Koppehel Oct 26 '20 at 11:46
  • @SebastianKoppehel The first translation in the Wikipedia article has "that Being who has produced this universe", and the meaning of savitṛ is glossed as “stimulator, rouser, vivifier” from a root meaning "give birth" in the notes thereto. – gmvh Oct 26 '20 at 15:01
  • I mean, why the ut? – Sebastian Koppehel Oct 26 '20 at 15:54
  • @SebastianKoppehel duh, my bad for misunderstanding! From the the notes in the Wikipedia article and what extremely little I know about Sanskrit, I believe that pracodayāt is an optative, and I would typically render optatives into Latin with ut. – gmvh Oct 26 '20 at 16:36
  • 1
    The plain subjunctive generally suffices to express an optative sense, though it can indeed be introduced by ut. But if you do that, it should be clearly recognisable as a main clause. The way you wrote it here, it looks to all the world like a subordinate clause with a final sense. Or how would you translate your own sentence if someone else had written it? "We choose ... so that it may impel etc." – Sebastian Koppehel Oct 27 '20 at 10:12

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