The Aarti is a form of Archana Bhakti (one of the Navadhaa Bhakti). It is the waving of a flame to a deity or a respected person such as a Guru. It is one of the most prominent rituals in the Sanaatan Dharma.
The Aarti is performed with a candle which is ignited to produce a flame, a shankh (conch) for offering water and sound and a bell for ringing. At times flowers, drum beats, dhoop (incense) and kapoor (camphor) are also used.
The flame is held either in both hands or in the right hand and ceremoniously waved around the deity or the respected person together with the ringing of the bell and the beating of drums.
It is said that the lamp should first circulate the deity’s feet four times then the belly twice the mouth once and then seven times around the entire body. The lamp circulates in a clockwise direction. Once the Aarti is completed, the candle is circulated three times with water from the conch and then the flames are offered back to the deity and then to others.
The purpose of the Aarti is to perform a bhakti known as ‘archanam’. This offering is made as the panch bhut (five fundamental elements) i.e.
- The candle, flowers and kapoor as pruthvi (earth-solid)
- The offering of water towards the end as the jal (water-liquid)
- The flame itself as the tej (fire-energy)
- The sound of bells, drums and shankh as the vaayu (wind-moving space)
- The clockwise circulation of the deity as the aakash (space-ether)
There are also other reasons for performing the Aarti. Many years ago, when there was no electricity to be able to see the image of God before sunrise, people had to light lamps and wave them around the image to be able to do darshan. This is a gross example of what Aarti actually is; it is the removal of the darkness of maaya with the divinity of God’s image.
In the Shikshapatri Shloka 106, Shree Swaminarayan Bhagwan says that maaya is the darkness of ignorance. We remove this darkness with the divine image of God this is what Aarti symbolises.
When the Aarti is performed of God almighty, devtas (demi-gods) arrive from their respective abodes to witness this divine event. It is for this reason it constitutes the most important event of the day in a mandir.
The major mandirs in India do Aarti five times a day.
- The first is performed early morning when Bhagwan is awoken (Manglaa).
- The second is performed after He has been decorated (Shangaar).
- The third Aarti is performed before midday after His meal (Rajbhog).
- The fourth is performed in the evening around sunset (Sandhya).
- The final Aarti is performed before He is put to sleep in the evening (Shayan).
The Aarti is indeed an extremely important time. The final stage of a murti-pratishta (installation of deities in mandirs) performed by the Acharya Maharaj, is the Aarti. This gives an idea of how significant the Aarti really is.
When is the Aarti is performed, all those present should be standing. They should be clapping and singing along the praise of God. It is also very important that the mind is fixated on following the flame around the deity, after all this is the purpose of the Aarti- “antar no andhakar, Bhagwan ni murti thi door karvo” – the darkness inside us is removed by the image of Bhagwan.
After the Aarti ceremony is completed the flame is sanctified with Bhagwan’s divinity therefore we take blessings from the flame with both hands.
on November 6th, 2018