Why do we aarti ? - Brief description about light a lamp, burn camphor and perform Aarti - THE HINDU PORTAL - Spiritual heritage Rituals and Practices

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Saturday, February 08, 2014

Why do we aarti ? - Brief description about light a lamp, burn camphor and perform Aarti

GANAGA - ARTI
GANAGA - ARTI
Aarti (Hindi आरती), also spelled arathi, aarthi (from the Sanskrit word "आरात्रिक" with the same meaning) is a Hindu religious ritual of worship, a part of puja, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. Aartis also refer to the songs sung in praise of the deity, when lamps are being offered.

The aarti is done by in a circular motion moving it in the clockwise direction, highlighting the five kamars (lotus flowers) of the Lord’s Murti;
  • Mukh kamar – face
  • Hrday kamar – heart
  • Hasta kamar – hands
  • Naabhi kamar – naval
  • Chaaran kamar – feet
Aarti is performed both at homes and in mandirs. It enables the devotee to focus his/her mind on the Lord.

The vaat (sticks burned during aarti) are dowsed in ghee (purified butter) because milk derivatives are considered pavitra (spiritually pure and purifying). (Amongst all mammals, the cow is considered to be pavitra and sacred.)

Origin
Arati is derived from the Sanskrit word Aratrika, which means something that removes Ratri, darkness (or light waved in darkness before an idol).

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 lamp or candle 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.

Practice
Aarti is generally performed one to five times daily, and usually at the end of a puja (in South India) or bhajan session (in North 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 singing of songs in praise of that deva or person (many versions exist). In doing so, the plate or lamp is supposed to acquire 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 purificatory blessing, passed from the deva's image to the flame, 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).[5] 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:

> Ether (akash)
> Wind (vayu)
> Fire (agni)
> Water (jal)
> Earth (pruthvi)
Communal Aarti is performed in the mandir; however, devotees also perform it in their homes.
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.[6]


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.

Aarti songs
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 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.

In Swaminarayan Mandirs, Jay 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.

PLAY AUDIO Om jai jagdish hare



MORE EXPLANATION :
Ritual Hand Held Oil Lamp Puja Aarti
Ritual Hand Held Oil Lamp Puja Aarti
Towards the end of every ritualistic worship (pooja or bhajan) of the Lord or to welcome an honoured guest or saint, we perform the aarti. This is always accompanied by the ringing of the bell and sometimes by singing, playing of musical instruments and clapping.
It is one of the sixteen steps (shodasha upachaara) of the pooja ritual. It is referred to as the auspicious light (mangala niraajanam). Holding the lighted lamp in the right hand, we wave the flame in clockwise direction to light the entire form of the Lord. Each part is revealed individually and also the entire form of the Lord. As the light is moved we either do mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful form of the Lord, illuminated 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.

We have seen and participated in this ritual from our childhood. Let us find Why we do the aarti?

Having worshiped the Lord with love - performing abhishekh, decorating the image and offering fruits and delicacies, we see the beauty of the Lord in all His glory. Our minds are focused on each limn of the Lord as it is lit up by the lamp. It is akinto silent open-eyed meditation on His beauty. The singing, clapping ringing of the bell etc. denotes the joy and auspiciousness, which accompanies the vision of the Lord.

Aarti is often performed with camphor. This holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor when lit burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it. Camphor represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas).when lit by the fire of knowledge which illuminates 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 that keeps us separate from the Lord. Also while camphor burns to reveal the glory of the Lord it emits a pleasant smell even while it sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and all we have, to spread the perfume of love to all.

We often wait a long while to see the illumined Lord but when the aarti is actually performed, our eyes close automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of us is the temple of the Lord - we hold the divinity within. Just as the priest reveals the form of the Lord clearly with the aarti flame, so too the guru clearly reveals to us the divinity within each of us with help of the 'flame' of knowledge. At the end of theaarti, we place our hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and top of the head. It means - may the light that illuminated 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 else exist and shine. As 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 that 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.

Another explanation is the most important ritual and is performed during almost all ceremonies and occasions. It involves the waving of an 'Arati plate' around a person or idol and is generally accompanied by the singing of songs in praise of that deity or person.  
The arati plate is generally made of metal. On it must repose a lamp made of kneaded flour, mud or metal, filled with oil or ghee. A cotton wick is put into the oil and then lighted, or camphor is burnt instead. The plate also contains flowers, incense and akshata.
The purpose of performing arati is to ward off evil effects and the malefic influence of the 'evil eye' (see Nazar Utarna). Arati is hence performed on people of high social or economic status; small children during various ceremonies; on people who are going on or are coming back from a long journey; on a bride and bridegroom when they enter their house for the first time; on grain (if one has had a good harvest); on animals or anything else of importance. It is also performed on newly acquired property, like a house or a tractor.

It is believed that the idol of a deity too is susceptible to the evil eye, and needs regular arati, with the singing of special arati songs. These songs laud the glory of the deities and describe the benefits that one might gain by praying to them.
While arati is being performed, the officiating priest waves the arati plate over the image of the deity. In doing so, the plate itself is said to acquire the radiance and the power of the deity.

The priest then takes the plate around to all those present as prasada. Arati The devotees cup their downturned hands over the flame and then raise their palms to their forehead. By doing this, it is believed that the purificatory blessing, passed from the deity's image to the flame, has now been passed to the devotee.

The ridding of the effects of the evil eye' is a very popular practice. It is commonly believed that all kinds of illnesses, pains, epileptic fits and handicaps are caused by the 'evil eye', or because one is possessed by an evil spirit Bhuta, Preta, Pishacha. Unless this is nullified, the effects are said to stay. In such cases, no medication is believed to help the patient, therefore other 'remedies' have developed.

A person is said to possess the evil eye if whatever he or she looks upon is harmed. A person with an evil eye need not necessarily be wicked; usually the effect of the evil eye is unintentional. Such people do not have any distinguishing physical feature to set them apart from the rest. However, one or two 'incriminating' incidents from everyday life may doom a person to the detested category of those with the 'eye'. All those believed to be witches, wizards, and beggars are so castigated. If these people look upon any desirable object, it is believed to get ruined.

If a person falls under an evil spell, there are many ways through which it can be broken. Waving a whole chilli over the person and throwing it in fire is another way. If the smoke smells of the chilli, the illness is not attributed to the evil eye or nazar. However, if the smoke does not smell of chillies, it is believed that the person was afflicted by the evil eye, whose spell has now been broken.

Nazar utarna of a more elaborate kind is performed by astrologers or professionals who do it with the help of secret and mystic rites. At times, a lemon with four or five chillies tied together, or a piece of stale unleavened bread (roti) are used for the purpose. With the help of mantras, the effects of the evil eye are. They are then either thrown away or left at a crossroad. Therefore, most people are very particular about avoiding these objects when they spot them lying at a crossroad, for fear of catching the eye if they step over them. At times these chillies are also hung on the front door to shield the house from the evil eye.

Good-looking children, young boys and girls, brides and grooms, are considered most susceptible to the eye. Small children are generally made to wear special, protective charms and lockets. Eyeliner (see Kajal) is applied to their eyes and a small black dot (kala tika) to their foreheads. This is believed to mar their beauty and make them unappealing to the evil eye. Charms like bits of pottery from a burial ground, the dried foot of a tortoise, the tooth of a crocodile, a bristle from the tail of an elephant, a tiger's claw, or a talisman with magic mantras inscribed on it are all popular.

Nazar Utarnaas a pre-emptive measure against nazar. When a north Indian bridegroom leaves for his bride's house, his face is always covered with a screen of flowers, as a camouflage against the evil eye. When he arrives at the bride's house, the mother of the bride performs a ritual for the groom aarti to nullify the effects of any nazar acquired on the way. So too, a bride's mother-in-law performs the same ritual for her when she first enters her in-laws' house.

Nazar is also said to affect healthy domestic animals, trees in blossom, a good harvest or fine houses. Stone slabs inscribed and engraved with letters, characters and figures are often set up at the village boundary to safeguard the inhabitants and their cattle and crops against sickness, epidemic and disease caused by nazar. To protect their homes from the eye, women often draw mystical designs on the threshold. Black mud pots with fierce faces drawn on them are also hung on the door of It is believed that if the malefic effect of the first look is neutralized, subsequent glances will have no effect. All these devices are believed to catch the effect of the evil eye before it affects the crops, the building, or the beings they protect. It is believed that only the first look is deadly, and once its effect is neutralized, subsequent glances will have no effect. Dhrishtamani (eye beads) are used as an indicator of the evil eye. These beads are strung together and worn by children. It is believed that if the child falls under an evil spell, the necklace breaks or the beads change colour. Rudraksha beads are also used as charms, either strung into a necklace or tied on a thread and worn on the body.

Bhuta, Preta, Pishacha A common Hindu belief holds that the spirits of men and women who died with their wishes unfulfilled, wander in the world and haunt the living instead of going to Yamapuri. These spirits can be broadly categorised into three classes: Bhuta, preta and pishacha.

A bhuta is the spirit of a man who died a violent death either by accident, suicide, or capital punishment, and has not had a proper funeral ceremony.

A preta (literally departed, deceased, dead) is the spirit of a dead person before his funeral rites are performed. However the word is more commonly applied to the spirit of a deformed or a crippled person or of one defective in some limb or organ, or of a child that dies prematurely, owing to the omission of ceremonies during the formation of the embryo. A preta is not necessarily wicked or malicious towards people.

A pishacha is a demon created by a man's vices. It is the ghost of a liar, drunkard, adulterer, criminal, or of one who has died insane. There are many tales and fables about these spirits, describing some as malevolent and others as good-natured and helpful. Spirits are believed to live either at the site of their death or in secluded places. Abandoned homes and trees are two favorite spots.

The Hindus also believe that if a person goes too close to a spirit, or if the services of a professional are employed, these spirits can enter human bodies. The spirit could enter through any of the nine orifices of the body. A possessed person is said to fall sick, die, be unhappy, lose his wealth, or behave oddly.
In such cases an ojha (exorcist), through mystic rites, tries to 'talk' to the spirit inside and asks it to leave. If he knows the identity of the spirit, he asks its family members to perform certain ceremonies to pacify the spirit. This system is still prevalent in some of the parts of India. Diseases and other upheavals are sometimes attributed to the fact that a deceased family member's funeral rites have not been properly performed. To correct this, a tirthayatra is undertaken, and proper shradha is performed.

Sometimes, especially during ceremonies, a person is believed to become possessed by the spirit of a deceased family member who is either angry about something, or has come to take part in the festivities. A puja is performed to this spirit. Meanwhile the spirit is believed to be able to predict natural calamities, births and deaths through the possessed person.

Hindus wear talismans, lockets, bangles, and other adornments that are believed to have the power to protect from the gaze of spirits. The recitation of certain mantras is believed to have a similar effect.

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