The Aarti is performed towards the end of every ritualistic worship of God or when a revered guest or saint is welcomed. It is accompanied by ringing the bell and singing hymns, playing musical instruments and clapping. It comprises of one of the sixteen steps of the pooja ritual called the Shodashaupachara. It refers to the auspicious light ‘Manglaniraajanam.’ The lighted lamp is held in the right hand is encircled in a clockwise movement to light the entire form of the deity. In the process the entire form, along with each part, of God is revealed. While waving the lamp, chanting of prayers is done in a loud or mute tone in the mind. After the Aarti is performed, we place our hands over the flame and touch the eyes and top of the head gently.
Why is Aarti done?
The beauty and glory of God is seen while performing the abhishek, decorating the image and even offering fruits and delicacies to the deity. The lamp tends to light up each and every limb of God. It is a kind of silent open-eyed meditation on the beauty of the Almighty. The joy and auspiciousness is denoted through singing, clapping and ringing the bell which accompanies the vision of God.
Aarti is generally performed using Camphor or ‘kapoor’ as this holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor is used because it burns itself out completely without leaving any trace, which signifies our inherent tendencies (Vaasanas). The fire of knowledge lights and illumines truth, thereby burning our ego which creates a sense of individuality, keeping us separate from God.
Even when camphor sacrifices itself, it leaves behind a pleasant fragrance to reveal the glory of God. This signifies that on our spiritual path, we should sacrifice ourselves while serving the Guru and the society and spread the perfume of love to one and all. The illumined God can be seen when the Aarti is lit; however, our eyes tend to close automatically to look within while performing the Aarti. This proves that we all are a temple of God.
The Aarti flame clearly reveals the form of God and even the divinity of knowledge within us, the light of spiritual knowledge. At the end of the Aarti, the devotee places his hands over the flame and touches both eyes and the top of the head so that his thoughts and actions are always noble and beautiful.
If we see the philosophical meaning of the word Aarti, it means turning our attention to all the natural sources of all light viz the sun, moon, stars, lightning and fire. Since God is the source of this entire universe and everything in it, the flame of Aarti symbolizes knowledge and life which extends to every form of life on earth.