Track: Bahuchar Maa Ni Arti
Album: Bahucharma Nu Pragatiya
What is an Arti?
Arti is a Hindu ritual, in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. It is said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung during the ritual. Aarti is performed and sung to develop the highest love for God. "Aa" means "towards", and "rati" means "the highest love for God" in Sanskrit.
Aarti is generally performed twice or three times daily, and usually at the end of a puja or bhajan session. It is performed during almost all Hindu ceremonies and occasions. It involves the circulating 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 (many versions exist). In doing so, the plate itself is supposed to acquire the power of the deity. The priest circulates the plate 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 deity's image to the flame, has now been passed to the devotee.
The arati 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. 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'. 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; at harvest; on anything else of importance. It is also performed on newly acquired property, or before an important task.
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.
Sometimes they also contain snippets of information on the life of the gods. Arati songs are particular to each deity. The most commonly sung arati is that to Vishnu. In most temples in India, arati is performed at least twice a day, after the ceremonial puja, which is the time when the largest number of devotees congregates.