The Ganges: Offering Light to the Gods

Aarti is a Hindu religious ritual of worship in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) is offered to one or more deities. Elaborate celebrations are also common.

Arti: The Hindu Ceremony of Light

The arti (pronounced ‘aarti’) is one of the most important and popular ceremonies of the Hindu faith. It is a prayerful ceremony performed in extolled greeting and thanksgiving of the Deities where devotees are reminded of God’s glorious presence and providence.

The arti ceremony is said to have descended from the ancient Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa.

Others attribute it to the practice many centuries ago of illuminating a murti set deep inside the dark recess of a mandir’s cave-like inner sanctum. To allow devotees darshan of the sacred image, the priest would wave an oil lamp from the Deity’s head to toe while chanting Vedic mantras or singing a prayer. Gradually, the practice developed into the arti.

The arti sung within the Swaminarayan tradition was composed by Muktanand Swami, one of Bhagwan Swaminarayan’s most senior and learned sadhus, when Bhagwan Swaminarayan was only 21. Learn more about it here.

In Sanskrit, the word ‘arti’ – written as ‘aarati’ – is composed of the prefix ‘aa’, meaning complete, and ‘rati’, meaning love. The arti is thus an expression of one’s complete and unflinching love towards God. It is sung and performed with a deep sense of reverence, adoration, and meditative awareness.

Often called the ‘ceremony of light’, the arti involves waving lighted wicks before the sacred images to infuse the flames with the Deities’ love, energy and blessings. It is performed by sadhus (Hindu monks) and pujaris (attendants to the Deities).

Along with – or sometimes instead of – flames from ghee-soaked wicks, the light from camphor is also used. Other auspicious articles offered during the ceremony include incense, water, and flowers. Some artis also involve the waving of a chamar (wisp) or white cloth. These together represent the five elements of the world – 1) space (white cloth), 2) air (wisp), 3) light (flames), 4) water, and 5) earth (flowers) – and symbolise the offering of the whole of creation to the Deity during the arti ceremony.

The term ‘arti’ also refers to the prayer sung in praise of the Deity while the wicks are waved. This prayer is joyously sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments, including drums, bells, gongs, and a conch-shell. In fact, the ceremony is often announced and concluded by the blowing of a conch-shell. The pujari also rings a small hand-bell while waving the wicks and singing the prayer.

After the short prayer, the lighted wicks are passed around the congregation to allow members to receive the blessings infused within the flames. Members hover their down-turned hands over the flame and then reverently touch them to their eyes and head. The purificatory blessing, conveyed from the Deities to the flame, has now been passed on to the devotee.

The arti is usually performed five times during the day at shikharbaddha (large, spired) mandirs with each arti relating to a specific part of the Deities’ routine. The five most common artis are:


At smaller mandirs and in shrines at devotees’ homes, the arti is performed twice daily, in the morning and the evening.

The arti also features as a component of other, more elaborate rituals within Hindu worship, and is often the concluding prayer in religious assemblies and festivals.

Like other Hindu rituals, the arti has profound spiritual sentiments underlying it.

Just as the wicks burn in the service of the Deities, devotees pray that they, too, can selflessly offer themselves in the service of God.

And as the wicks eventually burn themselves out, devotees pray their ego can similarly be eradicated through such service and humble worship.

Furthermore, just as the wicks provide light and dispel darkness, only the true knowledge of God and the guru can dispel ignorance and false understanding.

The original words of the Swaminarayan arti sung at mandirs around the world and an English translation of it can be found here. Or click here to listen to the Swaminarayan arti being sung to the accompaniment of musical instruments.

Source: BAPS Swaminarayan Sanstha
Link source

G+ Comments

Facebook Comments

Live & Die for Buddhism


Maha Ghosananda

Maha Ghosananda

Supreme Patriarch of Cambodian Buddhism (5/23/1913 - 3/12/07). Forever in my heart...

Problems we face today

jendhamuni pink scarfnature

Of the many problems we face today, some are natural calamities and must be accepted and faced with equanimity. Others, however, are of our own making, created by misunderstanding, and can be corrected...

Major Differences

Major Differences in Buddhism

Major Differences in Buddhism: There is no almighty God in Buddhism. There is no one to hand out rewards or punishments on a supposedly Judgement Day more

My Reflection

My Reflection

This site is a tribute to Buddhism. Buddhism has given me a tremendous inspiration to be who and where I am today. Although I came to America at a very young age, however, I never once forget who I am and where I came from. One thing I know for sure is I was born as a Buddhist, live as a Buddhist and will leave this earth as a Buddhist. I do not believe in superstition. I only believe in karma.

A Handful of Leaves

A Handful of Leaves

Tipitaka: The pali canon (Readings in Theravada Buddhism). A vast body of literature in English translation the texts add up to several thousand printed pages. Most -- but not all -- of the Canon has already been published in English over the years. Although only a small fraction of these texts are available here at Access to Insight, this collection can nonetheless be a very good place to start.

Just the way it is

1. Accept everything just the way it is.
2. Do not seek pleasure for its own sake.
3. Do not, under any circumstances, depend on a partial feeling.
4. Think lightly of yourself and deeply of the world.
5. Be detached from desire your whole life long.
6. Do not regret what you have done.
7. Never be jealous.
8. Never let yourself be saddened by a separation.
9. Resentment and complaint are appropriate neither for oneself nor... read more