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Offering Arati

Arati Ceremony

Every scheduled bhoga offering is followed by an arati. Except for kirtana, offering arati is the only regular daily function of Deity worship performed publicly.

Required Paraphernalia

Make sure the following items are present:

For all aratis:

  1. a bell on a plate
  2. a panca-patra containing samanya-arghya water (or simply fresh water) and a spoon
  3. a conch (for blowing) with a water-filled lota for purifying it
  4. a receptacle to catch the water from rinsing the conch (just outside the Deity room, in the temple room).

In addition, for full arati:

  1. an incense holder with an odd number of incense sticks
  2. a camphor lamp (for midday arati)
  3. a ghee lamp with an odd number of wicks (at least five)
  4. a conch for arghya water, with a stand
  5. a waterpot with a spout and a cover, filled with water (this is for the arghya water to be offered in the conch)
  6. a small visarjaniya-patra (throw-out container) for the offered arghya
  7. a handkerchief
  8. flowers on a plate
  9. a camara (yak-tail whisk)
  10. a peacock fan (only in warm weather).

For dhupa-arati:

  1. an incense holder with an odd number of sticks
  2. flowers on a plate
  3. a camara
  4. a peacock fan (only in warm weather).

Preliminary Activities for Arati

Outside the Deity room, after performing acamana (if not already done for previous services), offer obeisances to your spiritual master, requesting to assist him in the worship.

Prepare the samanya-arghya if not already done (see description), or if doing simplified worship, as in Chapter 3, see to it that there is a panca-patra containing fresh water and a spoon.

After cleaning the place where the arati paraphernalia will be set up (either on a low table, on the floor, or, if space allows, on the altar itself), bring the tray with paraphernalia and place them in the order of offering.

You may now light a standing or hanging oil or ghee lamp for lighting incense and arati lamps.

Requesting the Lord to Accept the Arati (puspanjali)

While ringing a bell, offer flower petals to the lotus feet of your spiritual master and then to each Deity’s lotus feet, requesting each Deity to accept the arati ceremony. The order of offering puspanjali is as follows: your spiritual master, Srila Prabhupada, Lord Nityananda, Lord Caitanya, Srimati Subhadra, Lord Baladeva, Lord Jagannatha, Srimati Radharani, and Lord Krsna. While offering the petals, chant esa puspanjalih and the mula-mantra for each Deity. Or in simplified worship, simply say, “Please accept these flowers of surrender.” 

(Substitute water from the panca-patra for flower petals if necessary, holding a spoonful of water toward each personality and then discarding it in the visarjaniya-patra; or simply offer Them flower petals in the mind.)

Ringing the bell again, open the Deity room doors. Then, take the blowing conchshell and lota with water just outside the Deity room (without the bell), blow the conch three times, rinse it off over a receptacle placed outside for that purpose, and then bring the conch and lota back inside. (You may place the conch horizontally on top of the lota.) Next wash your hands with water from the panca-patra and open the curtain while ringing the bell.

During the arati ceremony, devotees should perform kirtana in the temple. If by some misfortune no one is in the temple to chant, the pujari performing arati may either sing or have a recording of kirtana played.

Purifying the Upacaras

Before offering each upacara, purify both your right hand and the upacara by sprinkling them with water from the panca-patra. You can purify the upacara in either of two ways:

  1. place a few drops of water in your right hand and then sprinkle it lightly over the upacara with a single motion of your hand, so that the water comes off your fingertips; or
  2. take the spoon in your right hand and sprinkle water on the upacara directly from the spoon.

Optionally, with either method you may then show the cakra-, dhenu- (or surabhi-), and matsya-mudras over each item to indicate more subtle purification and protection. (See the Supplement, page 156, for diagrams and explanations.)

Offering Procedure

While standing on an asana and ringing a bell, present the incense first to your spiritual master by waving it in three or seven graceful circles, and then present it to Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya in the same manner. Arati paraphernalia should be offered gracefully, in a meditative mood. But do not be either too slow or too fast, and do not perform it in a showy manner, but as a humble servant of your spiritual master and the assembled Vaisnavas. Stand to the left of the altar (as viewed from the temple room) – not hidden entirely from view but also not distracting by your presence.

For devotees who are not direct disciples of Srila Prabhupada:

Along with the worship of one’s own spiritual master, devotees in ISKCON worship His Divine Grace A. C. Bhaktivedanta Swami Prabhupada as both the Founder-Acarya of ISKCON and the siksa-guru for all devotees of ISKCON. In addition to the worship of Srila Prabhupada in his guru-puja, one should also honor him when performing arati by presenting the arati items to Srila Prabhupada after presenting them to one’s own spiritual master.

Then, with the consciousness that you are offering it on behalf of your spiritual master and with the blessings of Srila Prabhupada and Lord Caitanya, offer it with the full number of circles (listed below) to the main Deity.

After offering the incense to the main Deity, offer it as prasada to the Lord’s associates in descending order, and to the guru-parampara—senior to junior. This may be done with seven or three circles for each personality, depending on time allowance. (Some manuals say that when offering items as prasada in arati, one should not offer below the waist.)

Then “distribute it” (with one or three circles) to the assembled Vaisnavas as the prasada of the Lord and His associates.

Offer the remaining items in a similar way. When offering each upacara, say softly the name of the item and the appropriate mula-mantra of the Deity being worshiped. Or in simplified worship, simply say to each personality, “Please accept this offering of [incense, lamps, etc.]“.

Offered items should not be mixed with unoffered items. You may place offered items back on the plate that was used to bring in the paraphernalia, provided no unoffered paraphernalia remains on it.

How to Offer Each Item

Offer all the items, except the camara and fan, by moving them in clockwise circles while ringing a bell with your left hand (above waist level), fixing your attention on the Deities.

Incense: offer seven circles around the whole body of the Lord.
Lamp(s): offer four circles to the lotus feet, two circles to the navel, and three circles to the Lord’s face; then offer seven circles to the Lord’s whole body.
Arghya in a conch: offer three circles to the Lord’s head and seven circles to the whole body of the Lord. Then pour a small amount of the offered arghya into the visarjaniya-patra (small throw-out pot) before proceeding to offer arghya to the next personality. (Arati arghya: plain or scented water).
Cloth: offer seven times around the Lord’s body.
Flowers: offer seven times around the Lord’s body.
Camara: wave before the Lord a suitable number of times.
Fan: wave before the Lord a suitable number of times.
You may give out the lamp(s) to the assembled devotees immediately after offering them to the Deities; it is traditional in many temples, to avoid interrupting the arati, to distribute arghya water and flowers at the end of the arati, after blowing the conch.

Upacara-mantras for Arati

The mantras for each item are as follows:

Incense: esa dhupah and the mula-mantra
Camphor and ghee lamps: esa dipah and the mula-mantra
Water in a conchshell: idam arghyam and the mula-mantra
Cloth: idam vastram and the mula-mantra
Flowers: etani puspani and the mula-mantra (idam puspam if offering a single flower)
Camara: esa camara-seva and the mula-mantra
Fan: esa vyajana-seva and the mula-mantra

Completing the Arati

Full aratis, including fanning and blowing of the conch before and after the arati, may last up to twenty-five minutes; the duration of short aratis (in which incense, flowers, and camara are offered) is from five to eight minutes.

After completing the arati, blow the conch three times outside the Deity room, as at the beginning of the arati. Then distribute the arghya and flower prasada to the assembled devotees.

Chant the prema-dhvani mantras if the kirtana leader or another devotee in the temple does not chant them.

Then with joined palms offer pranama prayers softly to your spiritual master and Their Lordships.

Next remove the arati paraphernalia from the Deity room, clean the area and articles, and at last offer dandavat-pranamas (prostrated obeisances) outside the Deity room.

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