The Arati Tray
Out of the nine processes of devotional service, kirtana is very important. Srila Jiva Gosvami therefore instructs that the other processes, such as arcana, vandana, dasya and sakhya, should be executed, but they must be preceded and followed by kirtana, the chanting of the holy name. We have therefore introduced this system in all of our centers. Arcana, arati, bhoga offering, Deity dressing and decoration are all preceded and followed by the chanting of the holy name of the Lord-Hare Krsna, Hare Krsna, Krsna Krsna, Hare Hare. Hare Rama, Hare Rama, Rama Rama, Hare Hare.
Whether your Deity worship at home is offered to a picture of Srila Prabhupada, the Pancha Tattva, or Gaura Nitai, the same basic program of kirtana and arati is followed. The kirtana songs that are chanted while arati is offered can be found under the Mangala-arati section of the Morning Program. If you are joined by family members or other devotees, they'll chant kirtana while you offer arati. Or, you may chant as you offer, or put on a tape of Srila Prabhupada or the devotees singing the arati prayers.
Get well organized before the arati begins by gathering all the needed paraphernalia together. Make a list, and check the items until the process becomes very familiar. It can be helpful to place the items in order on the table, clockwise as they are to be used. The items you will need for arati are as follows:
- Blowing shankh (conch)
- Pancha patra or acamana(water pot and spoon)
- Small candle and matches/lighter (optional)
- Ghanta (bell) on an asana (plate or stand)
- 4 sticks of incense
- 5-wick Paanch (ghee) lamp and 5 ghee-soaked wicks
- Agarbatti (incense) holder or pot with sand or salt
- Kapur (camphor lamp) with 1 ghee wick and a few grains of camphor sprinkled on wick
- Small bathing conch on asana
- Water pot with lid for water to be used
- Water pot for disposed water
- A flower
- A handkerchief
- Chamar (yak tail) fan
- Peacock fan (warm weather only)
- (See Paraphernalia Picture Glossary below)
Begin arati after performing acamana (purification). Offer obeisances the Spiritual Master, requesting to assist him in the worship. Begin arati with the pancha-patra, taking three spoons of water from the pot and pouring them first into one hand, then the other, to purify the hands.
Throw three spoons of water on the conch. Standing at the side of the altar (pointing away from altar), or standing just outside the temple room, blow loudly on the shankh three times. The transcendental sound of the conch purifies all who hear it, and announces the start of arati. The conch may then be placed on an asana (stand).
Before picking up and offering each item, first purify your right hand and then the item by sprinkling them with water from the pancha-patra. Purify the item by taking the spoon in your right hand and sprinkle water on the item directly from the spoon.
Open the curtains or altar doors while ringing the bell.
Light a candle or small ghee lamp, and use that flame to light incense, etc.
Lay the sticks of incense across the five-wick paanch.
Lay one stick of incense across the camphor lamp, or place it in the incense holder.
As arati is performed, stand on the left side of the altar (as viewed from temple room), being careful not to block the front view of the altar. Each item to be offered is held in the right hand. With the bell always held in the left hand, continuously ring the bell while offering each of the items, in order.
Begin by offering first to the Spiritual Master, asking to assist as he offers each item first to the most prominent Deity, then offering each item as prasada to the Lord's transcendental associates, in descending order (e.g., Radha-Krsna first, then Jagannath Deities, then Gaura-Nitai, Pancha Tattva, the other Acaryas, Lord Nrsimhadev, and the Goswamis).
In a mood of humility, mentally asking that each item be accepted, wave the offered items (except chamar and fan) with a graceful circular motion, with three rotations at the lotus feet, then three to the naval, the heart, and the head. After the item has been offered to all the worshippable personalities, face out from the altar and offer the item, with just three rotations, in the general direction of the devotees.
Offered items should not be mixed with unoffered items. Offered items may be placed back on the plate that was used to bring in the paraphernalia, provided no unoffered paraphernalia remains on that.
Offer the items in this order:
- Light three sticks of incense in the candle flame. Put the incense out by waving it hard (but don't blow on it to extinguish the flame). After offering the incense, put the sticks in the incense holder.
- Light the fourth stick of incense in the candle. Use the flame on the incense to light the five ghee wicks in the paanch. Extinguish the flame on the incense (but not by blowing), and put it in the incense holder. Offer the lamp, then pass it off to one of the devotees, who will offer it to each devotee in the room. When the lamp is offered to them, devotees pass their hand through the flame and touch it to their head.
- Re-light an incense stick in the lamp or candle flame, and use the incense flame to light the single-wick camphor lamp. As before, offer the lamp, then pass it as prasada to the devotees.
- Fill the small conch with water by pouring water into it from the water pot. Once full, offer the conch. Afterwards, pour the water from the conch into your right hand, then turn and sprinkle it onto the devotees.
- Offer the flower, then pass it to a devotee, who will offer it to each of the devotees to smell.
- Offer the handkerchief.
- Offer the chammar with a gentle sweeping motion, making long vertical strokes.
- In warm weather, offer the peacock fan with gentle back-and-forth motions.
- Just as you began arati, again blow loudly on the shankh three times to signal the end of the offering.
Throughout the arati, the devotees have been chanting kirtana. At the final sounding of the conch, the kirtana should begin to wind down. As arati finishes, the flower and incense may be placed on a side altar nearby. Any other arghya (scented water) and flower prasada may be distributed to the devotees. Then, with joined palms offer pranama prayers softly to the Spiritual Master and Their Lordships. Remove the arati paraphernalia from the temple room or altar area, and clean the area and articles completely, returning them to their proper place. Lastly, offer dandavat-pranamas (prostrated obeisances) before the altar or outside the temple room.
Water cups (for drinking water) and flowers that are left on the altar after arati should be attended to daily. In the evening, water may be removed, and the water cup cleaned and put back in place. Any garlands should be removed from the Deities at bedtime. Flowers in vases should be removed as soon as they're slightly wilted, and should be changed daily.
When dhupa-arati is offered (dhupa is 'incense arati') the only items offered are incense, flower, chamar, and peacock fan (warm weather). The conch is sounded, and the same process of purifying and ringing the bell is followed.
Full aratis (including fanning) may last up to twenty-five minutes. Shorter aratis like dhupa-arati, in which incense, flowers, and chamar are offered, last only five to eight minutes.
Paraphernalia Picture Glossary