Aarti, Arti, arathi, or Arati is a Hindu ritual in which light from wicks soaked in ghee (purified butter) or camphor is offered to one or more deities. It may be said to have descended from the Vedic concept of fire rituals, or homa. The word may also refer to the traditional Hindu devotional song that is sung in the ritual of the same name.
Aarti is generally performed twice or three times daily. For example, in the morning and in the evening, and at the end of a puja or bhajan session.
Aarti in Hindu temples
In mandirs (Hindu temples) aarti is performed daily by pujaris (priests). There is usually a 'mangala-arati' first thing in the morning, another later in the morning, one at lunchtime, and the final arati of the day at sundown.
The assembled devotees in the temple sing various types of kirtana and bhajans during the arati ceremony. The pujari performing arati first purifies his hands with sacred water from the acamana cup. He then sprinkles three spoonfuls of water over a conch, and blows it three times. He then lights an odd number of incense sticks (usually three) from a ghee lamp standing beside the altar. While ringing a small bell, he waves it seven times around the deities, and then he waves it once to the assembled devotees.
The pujari next lights a five-wick ghee lamp from the large lamp and offers it; four circles to the deities' feet, two to their navel, three to their face, and then he waves it seven times around the deities' whole bodies. He then gives it to another devotee, who presents the lamp to each devotee in the temple room. When offered the ghee lamp, devotees touch the flame with their hands, and then touch their hands to their foreheads.
The pujari then takes a smaller conch and fills it with water. He offers it by waving it three times around the deities' heads and seven times around their bodies. He then pours the water into a shaker; which another devotee takes and walks around the temple room shaking it, ensuring that everyone has been touched by the water.
The next item offered is a cloth, offered seven times around the deities. After the cloth has been offered, the pujari takes a plate with flowers on it and offers it seven times around the deities' bodies. The plate is then taken by another devotee and offered to the rest of the devotees, who each sniff the flowers.
After that, the pujari takes a camara (yak-tail whisk) from beside the altar and waves it before the deities, to keep the flies away from them. In warm weather, he will also wave a peacock fan before the deities.