Aarti or Aarati also spelled arti, arati, arathi, aarthi, aarthy, arthy (आरती; ārtī) is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light (usually from a flame) is offered to one or more deities. Aarati(s) also refers to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when the light is being offered.
Aarati is derived from the Sanskrit word आरात्रिक (ārātrika) which means something that removes rātrī, darkness (or light waved in darkness before an icon). A Marathi language reference says it is also known as Mahaneeranjana (महानीराञ्जना).
Aarti is said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. In the traditional aarti ceremony, the flower represents the earth (solidity), the water and accompanying handkerchief correspond with the water element (liquidity), the ghee or oil lamp represents the fire component (heat), the peacock fan conveys the precious quality of air (movement), and the yak-tail fan represents the subtle form of ether (space). The incense represents a purified state of mind, and one’s “intelligence” is offered through the adherence to rules of timing and order of offerings. Thus, one’s entire existence and all facets of material creation are symbolically offered to the Lord via the aarti ceremony. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung during the ritual.
Aarti can be simple to extravagant, but always includes flame or light. It is sometimes performed one to five times daily, and usually at the end of a puja (in southern India) or bhajan session (in northern India). It is performed during almost all Hindu ceremonies and occasions. It involves the circulating of an ‘Aarti plate’ or ‘Aarti lamp’ around a person or deity and is generally accompanied by the congregation singing songs in praise of that deva or person – many versions exist. In most versions the plate, lamp, or flame represents the power of the deity. The priest circulates the plate or lamp to all those present. They cup their down-turned hands over the flame and then raise their palms to their forehead – the blessing has now been passed to the devotee.
The aarti plate is generally made of metal, usually silver, bronze or copper. On it must repose a lamp made of kneaded flour, mud or metal, filled with oil or ghee. One or more cotton wicks (always an odd number) are put into the oil and then lighted, or camphor is burnt instead. The plate may also contain flowers, incense and akshata (rice). In some temples, a plate is not used and the priest holds the ghee lamp in his hand when offering it to the Deities.
The purpose of performing aarti is the waving of lighted wicks before the deities in a spirit of humility and gratitude, wherein faithful followers become immersed in god’s divine form. It symbolises the five elements:
- Space (Akash)
- Wind (Vayu)
- Fire (Agni)
- Water (Jal)
- Earth (Prithvi)
Community Aarti is performed in the mandir; however, devotees also perform it in their homes.
Aarti can be an expression of many things including love, benevolence, gratitude, prayers, or desires depending on the object it is done to/ for. For example, it can be a form of respect when performed to elders, prayers when performed to deities, or hope when performed for homes or vehicles. Emotions and prayers are often silent while doing Aarti, but this is determined by the person carrying out the ritual or the holiday involved. It’s also believed that goodwill and luck can be taken through symbolic hand movements over the flame.
When aarti is performed, the performer faces the deity of god (or divine element, e.g. Ganges river) and concentrates on the form of god by looking into the eyes of the deity (it is said that eyes are the windows to the soul) to get immersed. The flame of the aarti illuminates the various parts of the deity so that the performer and onlookers may better see and concentrate on the form. Aarti is waved in circular fashion, in clockwise manner around the deity. After every circle (or second or third circle), when Aarti has reached the bottom (6–8 o’clock position), the performer waves it backwards while remaining in the bottom (4–6 o’clock position) and then continues waving it in clockwise fashion. The idea here is that aarti represents our daily activities, which revolves around god, a center of our life. Looking at god while performing aarti reminds the performer (and the attendees of the aarti) to keep god at the center of all activities and reinforces the understanding that routine worldly activities are secondary in importance. This understanding would give the believers strength to withstand the unexpected grief and keeps them humble and remindful of god during happy moments. Apart from worldly activities aarti also represents one’s self – thus, aarti signifies that one is peripheral to godhead or divinity. This would keep one’s ego down and help one remain humble in spite of high social and economic rank. A third commonly held understanding of the ritual is that aarti serves as a reminder to stay vigilant so that the forces of material pleasures and desires cannot overcome the individual. Just as the lighted wick provides light and chases away darkness, the vigilance of an individual can keep away the influence of the material world.
Aarti is not only limited to god. Aarti can performed not only to all forms of life, but also inanimate objects which help in progress of the culture. This is exemplified by performer of the aarti waving aarti to all the devotees as the aarti comes to the end – signifying that everyone has a part of god within that the performer respects and bows down to. It is also a common practice to perform aarti to inanimate objects like vehicles, electronics etc. at least when a Hindu starts using it, just as a gesture of showing respect and praying that this object would help one excel in the work one would use it for. It is similar to the ritual of doing auspicious red mark(s) using kanku (kumkum) and rice.
Hinduism has a long tradition of aarti songs, simply referred to as ‘Aarti‘, sung as an accompaniment to the ritual of aarti. It primarily eulogizes to the deity the ritual is being offered to, and several sects have their own version of the common aarti songs that are often sung on chorus at various temples, during evening and morning aartis. Sometimes they also contain snippets of information on the life of the gods.
The most commonly sung aarti is that which is dedicated to all deities is Om Jai Jagdish Hare, known as “The Universal Aarti” and is another common aarti song. Its variation are used for other deities as well such as Om Jai Shiv omkara, Om Jai Lakshmi mata, Om Jai Ambe gauri, Om Jai Adya Shakti, Om Jai Saraswati Mata, Om Jai Gange Mata, Om Jai Tulsi Mata and Om Jai Surya Bhagvaan. In Ganesha worship, the aarti Sukhakarta Dukhaharta is popular.
In Swaminarayan Mandirs, Jai Sadguru Swami is the aarti that is sung. In most temples in India, aarti is performed at least twice a day, after the ceremonial puja, which is the time when the largest number of devotees congregates.
In Pushtimarg Havelis, aarti is performed by a sole mukhiyaji (priest) while Haveli Sangeet (Kirtan) is being sung. Devotees only watch the aarti being done and do not get to take a major part in it. During bhajan or utsavs (festivals) celebrated at home, Jai Jai Shree Yamuna is sung while devotees perform aarti. It is said that Sandhya Aarti is done to see if Lord Shrinathji had gotten hurt while playing outside because it is performed after sundown.
In Sikhism the aarti sung is Gagan mein thaal.
Aarti in southern Indian temples
Aarti performed at southern Indian temples consists of offering a camphor lamp (or oil lamp) to the Deities and then distributing it to the devotees, who line up. They hover their hands over the flame and touch their hands to their eyes, this may be done once or three times. It is the last ritual performed in puja. Aarti is also referred to as Deepa Aaradhanai in Tamil, Deepaaradhane’’ in Kannada, Deepaaradhanamu or “Haarati” in Telugu, Deepaaradhana in Malayalam.
Aarti in Gaudiya Vaishnavism
In Gaudiya Vaishnavism, aarti refers to the whole puja ritual, of which offering the lamp is only one part. A shankha (conch) is blown to start the aarti, then an odd number of incense sticks are offered to the deity. The lamp is offered next, and then circulated among the devotees. A conch is then filled with water, and offered; the water is then poured into a sprinkler and sprinkled over the devotees. A cloth and flowers are then offered, and the flowers are circulated to the devotees, who sniff them. The deity is then fanned with a camara whisk, and a peacock fan in hot countries.
Aarti dance in Durga Puja
See also: Natyashastra
During the Bengali festival Durga Puja ritual drummers – dhakis, carrying large leather-strung dhak, show off their skills during ritual dance worships called Aarati or Dhunuchi dance.
Aarti in Sikhism
Amritsari Sikhs have not been performing Aarti as Hindus perform, but instead sing ‘Aarti Kirtan’, which are a few shabads from Guru Nanak, Ravidas and other Bhagats/Gurus. Few Nihangs’s Aarti includes some more shabads from the Dasam Granth and Sarabloh Granth. According to them, Aarti is the Aarti of divine wisdom, which is in form of Guru Granth Sahib. The concept is similar to bowing before Guru Granth Sahib on knees.
Adapted from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia