"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.
Other 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 Sanatan Dharma tradition was composed by the Rishis (Sages) to sing the glories / victories of the deity worshipped.
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 cotton wool bulb wicks made dipped in purified butter (Ghee) before the sacred images to infuse the flames with the Deities love, energy and blessings. It is performed by Rishis (Sages), Sadhu's, (Hindu Monks), Sunth, Maharaj's and Pujaris attending to the Deities.
Along with or sometimes instead of flames from ghee-soaked wicks, the light from camphor is also used.
Other auspicious items offered during the ceremony include incense, water, flowers, handkerchief and may also include deities weapons on speacial days. Some artis also involve the waving of a chamar (wisp).
These together represent the five elements of the world :
• Space (White Handkerchief)
• Air (wisp)
• Lighted Wick
• Earth (flowers))
• Weapons (To protect and serve humanitarian for peace and prosperity)
and this symbolises 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 Arti 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 to call upon Diety and each sanctioned conch has its own sound of scale notation belonging to each individual deity.
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. Devotees hover their down-turned hand-palms over the flame and then reverently touch them to their eyes, head and solar-plexus.
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 mandir's with each arti relating to a specific part of the Deities' routine.
At smaller mandir's and in shrines at devotees homes, the arti is performed twice daily in the morning and the evening or either once day (morning or 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.
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.