Understanding the Aarti CeremonyAarti is performed with a lighted lamp that we wave in clockwise circling motion to illuminate the entire form of God’s image. While rotating the lamp, we do mental or loud chanting of God’s names and behold God’s beautiful image in our eyes. Our minds are focused on every limb of Lord as it is lit up by the moving lamp. It amounts to an open-eyed meditation on the beauty and glory of God. The singing, clapping, ringing bells and blowing sea-shells (शंख SHANKHA) show our joy and happiness on this auspicious occasion.
At the end of Aarti, we place our hands over the flame and gently touch our eyes and top of the head. By doing this, we pray to Lord to light up our vision with wisdom and make our thoughts noble and beautiful.
SINGING GLORY OF GODAfter puja we sing bBhajans of God’s glory like ‘Jai Jai Ram, Jai Siya Ram’ or ‘Jai Govinda, Jai Gopala’. God’s glory is immense and beyond human comprehension. It is infinite and eternal. We say Jai-Jai to God to express our gratitude and to seek inspiration for purifying our hearts.
WHY DO WE SAY SHANTI (PEACE) THREE TIMES?Everyone desires happiness in life. Where there is peace, there is happiness. We chant SHANTI (शान्ति peace) three times to express our intense desire for peace. As per the saying ‘trivaram satyam’, it is believed that anything which is said thrice is likely to come true. It may probably be one reason why in a court of law a witness is asked to say ‘I shall speak truth, the whole truth, nothing but truth’.
The number three has a special significance in Hinduism. There is holy trinity of Brahma, Vishnu and Mahesh (Shiva). Lord Shiva is a three-eyed (त्रि नेत्र TRINETRA or TRIYAMBKAM) deity. His trident (त्रिशूल TRISHUL) is a three pronged weapon. There are three operating principles of nature (गुण GUNAS): (सत्व SATTVA), (रजस RAJAS) and (तमस TAMAS). The most sacred symbol in Hinduism, Om (ॐ AUM), has three letters: A, U, M. There are three states of consciousness: waking, dream and dreamless deep sleep. Three yogas explained in Bhagvad Gita are: Bhakti Yoga, Jnana Yoga and Karma Yoga. We should be noble in three things: Thought (मन MAN), word (वचन VACHAN) and deed or action (कर्म KARMA). The three (लोक LOKAS) mentioned in Gayatri Mantra are: higher (स्वर्ग SWARGA), lower (नरक NARAKA) and earth (पृथ्वी PRITHVI).
We chant shanty three times to pray for happiness and protection from all obstacles in life. It is chanted loud for the first time for seeking protection from the power of nature causing floods, earthquakes, volcano eruptions etc. It is chanted more softly a second time to seek protection from the forces present within us or outside, causing accidents, pollution, financial losses, crimes etc. The third chanting is the softest for seeking protection from various problems of our body and mind, such as diseases, anger, lust, greediness, etc.