As a goddess, Gayatri is typically depicted as a five-headed female sitting on a red lotus, which symbolizes wealth. Her five heads and 10 eyes represent her ability to see the earth, sky and all eight directions. It is also said that they represent the four Vedas, plus the Divine itself. She also has 10 arms that hold all the weapons of the Hindu gods, Shiva, Vishnu and Brahma. Oftentimes, Gayatri is also depicted with a white swan and holding a book to represent her connection to education.
The Gayatri mantra is said to invoke the sun god, Surya or Savitr, a Rigvedic deity. Historically, use of the Gayatri mantra was restricted to males of the Brahmin caste, but, through Hindu reforms, it has since been opened up to females and those of all castes. It is now accepted as important by all Hindus.
The mantra itself contains three lines of eight syllables each in Sanskrit. It has many English translations, one of which is: “We meditate on that glorious Light of the Divine Sun. May He, the Lord of Light, illuminate our minds.”
In addition to being used as a mantra for meditation, the Gayatri mantra is also featured in the upanayana (or "sacred thread") ceremony for young Hindu men. This ceremony is a rite of passage that marks the beginning of their study of the Vedic texts.