How to perform Aarti?
Aarti belongs to one of the sixteen steps (shodash upachaar) of the Hindu puja ritual. It is referred to as an auspicious light, illumining pure spiritual effulgence (mangal niraajanam). Holding the lighted lamp in the right hand, we wave the flame in a clockwise circling movement to light the entire form of the Lord.
As the light is waved we either do mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful form of the Lord, illumined by the lamp. We experience an added intensity in our prayers and the Lord’s image seems to manifest a special beauty at that time. At the end of the Aarti, we place our hands over the flame and then gently touch our eyes and the top of the head.
Importance of performing Aarti
In the Era of Strife or Kaliyug, man doubts the very existence of God. In such a spiritual climate, offering Aarti has been designed as an easy means for man to be able to realize God. Offering Aarti means calling out to God with intense yearning. If a human being calls out to a deity through the medium of the Aarti then he is granted a vision of God either in the form of light or in any other pious form.
Deity is appeased
The hymns in an Aarti which are chanted in praise of the Deities entail an earnest prayer made unto God to win His grace. The Deities and God, who bestow grace, are thus pleased with the praises and worship of the one who offers Aarti.
Composers of the Arti
Most of the Aartis have been composed by great saints and evolved devotees. An Aarti contains both the resolve and blessings of the spiritually evolved. Thus, the seekers benefit at the material and spiritual level due to the benefit accrued through their ‘Energy of Resolve’.
Activation of spiritual emotion
The rule of Bhakti or Path of Devotion signifies that it is very essential for a follower to develop devotion and spiritual emotion towards God since an early stage of his life.
But, in the primary stages of one’s life, it is difficult to develop spiritual emotion unto the formless, that is the unmanifest principle of God. However, a seeker feels close to God with a form which has human attributes. He is able to develop spiritual emotion unto Him faster. Aarti is an easy medium of worship to the manifest form of God. The subtle form of the words sung in the Aarti softly touch the idol or the picture of the Deity placed in front and return to those listening to or singing to it. This affects the worshippers’ subtle bodies.
The words in the Aarti transmit the component accompanying them to the subtle bodies of the worshippers. Consequently, one who sings the Aarti feels illumined and blessed. The spiritual emotion of the worshippers is awakened due to the activation of the central channel (sushumna nadi) by the words in the Aarti.
Strengthening of faith
As the seeker’s spiritual emotion for the Deity he worships is awakened during Aarti, he gains a spiritual experience. This helps in further strengthening his faith in the Deity he worships.
Deity’s principle is more active during Aarti
As the principle of the Deity is more functional during Aarti, a seeker derives more benefit from the energy and Chaitanya (Divine consciousness) of the Deity. That is why our presence in the temple during the offering of Aarti is more beneficial than our presence there at any other time.
Why is Aarti performed twice a day?
Aarti is meant to be performed at sunrise and sunset. At sunrise, the raja-tama predominant atmosphere present throughout the night is destroyed and the absolute fire element frequencies of Deities arrive in the universe. Hence, Aarti is to be offered at sunrise to welcome them.
The ‘tarak Chaitanya’ (savior form of Chaitanya) transmitted during the arrival of the frequencies of Deities at sunrise is to be welcomed by the worshipper through the medium of the Aarti, whereas at sunset, the Aarti is performed to destroy the raja-tama frequencies and to invoke the Deities’ ‘marak Chaitanya’ (destroyer form of Chaitanya). Hence, Aarti should be performed twice – at sunrise and at sunset.
What is the science of performing Aarti at sunset?
At sunset, the proportion of the absolute fire element in the Sun’s rays starts reducing and the predominance of the raja-tama particles in the atmosphere increases. The generation of raja-tama frequencies also increases. Taking advantage of this situation, the negative energies increase their movement in the environment.
To prevent distress from such a predominately raja-tama environment, it is essential to evoke the Deities through the frequencies of sound emitted through the Aarti and bring these frequencies into the orbit of the universe. As a result, the proportion of the frequencies of Deities enriched within the environment increases and the proportion of distressing vibrations decreases. This creates a protective armor around the devotee’s body.
Why should an Aarti platter be waved in a full circle, in front of the Deity?
When offering Aarti, using a lamp with five wicks (also called pancharti), the platter containing this lit lamp should be waved in a full circle in front of the Deity. This results in a speedy circular movement of sattva frequencies emitted by the flame of the lamp. These sattva frequencies then get converted gradually into raja frequencies. They appear like ripples in the water.
A suraksha kavach (protective armor) of these frequencies is formed around the embodied soul of the worshipper offering the Aarti and is known as a ‘tarang kavach’ (ripple armor). The more the spiritual emotion of the worshipper offering the Arti, longer this armor lasts. As his sattva component is enhanced, he is able to absorb more Divine frequencies from the universe. This increases his spiritual emotion and he perceives the reflection of his soul in the form of a blue spot of light (also known as Atmabindu) in front of him and a ripple of raja frequencies emanating from this Atmabindu.
The importance of Spiritual Emotions in Aarti
The Aarti should be sung with the bhav that ‘God Himself is standing in front and I am calling out to Him earnestly’.
The more the bhav one has while singing the Aarti for God, the more enriched with bhav and sattva predominant the Aarti will become. Such an Aarti will reach the Lord faster. Individuals singing an Aarti in this manner benefit as follows: The greater the collective bhav of the group singing the Arti, greater is the extent and period of preservation of the frequencies of Chaitanya (Divine consciousness) of Deities in the environment. This leads to a reduction in the distress from negative energies and gaining the benefit of Chaitanya. Every embodied soul should make an effort to perform the Aarti with bhav. Also, as a covering is formed on the ground by these sattva predominant vibrations (which stops the transmission of distressing frequencies from the Negative subtle regions), the worshipper’s embodied soul benefits most from the Chaitanya. Thus during the Aarti the worshipper’s gross and subtle bodies get purified and results in his faster spiritual evolution.
All of us do not necessarily have a good level of bhav. To enable even those having low bhav to perform Aarti with increased bhav, Sanatan Sanstha has produced an audio cassette and CD in Marathi called ‘Collection of Aartis and Omkar sadhana’. The collection includes regular Aartis of Lord Ganapati, Lord Shiva, Lord Rama, Lord Krishna, Datta, Maruti and Goddess Durga. The Aartis are enriched with bhav, sattvikta and Chaitanya. According to the spiritual principle that ‘word, touch, form, taste, odour and the energy related to them, all coexist’, if worshippers sing the Aartis in the manner sung by these seekers with bhav, then it will help awaken bhav in them too at a faster pace.
Use of Camphor
Aarti is often performed with camphor as this holds a special spiritual significance. Camphor represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas). Camphor when lit burns itself completely without leaving a trace of it, symbolically blows out all the vaasanas i.e. materialistic desires from the humans beings.
When lit by the fire of knowledge – which illumines the Lord (Truth) – our vaasanas thereafter burn themselves out completely, not leaving a trace of the ego which creates in us a sense of individuality and keeps us separate from the Lord. Also, while camphor burns to reveal the glory of the Lord, it emits a pleasant perfume even while it sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves, spreading the ‘perfume’ of love amongst all.
How it connects to our soul?
We often wait a long while to see the illumined Lord but, when the Aarti is performed, our eyes close automatically to look within. This is to signify that each of us is a temple of the Lord and we hold the divinity within.
The way the priest (pujari) reveals the form of the Lord clearly with the Aarti flame, so too the guru clearly reveals to us the divinity within each one of us with the help of the ‘flame’ of spiritual knowledge.
At the end of the Aarti, we place our hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and the top of the head. It means – May the light that illumined the Lord light up my vision; May my vision be divine and my thoughts noble and beautiful.
The philosophical meaning of Aarti extends further. The sun, moon, stars, lighting and fire are the natural sources of light. The Lord is the source of all these wondrous phenomena of the universe. It is due to Him alone that all else exists and shines. As we light up the Lord with the flame of the Aarti, we turn our attention to the very source of all light which symbolizes knowledge and life.
Also the sun is the presiding deity of the intellect; the moon, that of the mind; and fire, that of speech. The Lord is the Supreme Consciousness who illumines all of them. Without Him the intellect cannot think, nor can the mind feel nor the tongue speak. The Lord is beyond the mind, intellect and speech. How can this finite medium illumine the infinite Lord? Therefore as we perform the Aarti we chant:
“Na tatra suryo bhaati na Chandra taarakam
Nemaa vidyto bhaanti kutoyamagnih
Tameva bhaantam anubhaati sarvam
Tasya bhaasa sarvam idam vibhaati”
He is there where the sun does not shine,
Nor the moon, stars and lighting.
Then what to talk of this small flame (in my hand)!
Everything (in the universe) shines
Only after the Lord,
And by His light alone are we all illumined.