An Aarti is a ritual of Hindu worship usually performed at the end of a Pūjā — a prayer ceremony honoring Hindu deities or celebrating an event. During the ceremony, participants release oblations — usually in the form ghee soaked wicks — into the fire and chant devotional hymns.
There are many different variations on the Aarti and the ceremony may be done public or privately and at any time of the day. The Parmarth Niketan Ashram, Rishikesh’s largest ashram, hosts an Aarti every evening at sunset on the banks of the Ganges.
There is a rich tradition of Hindu hymns that accompany the Aarti. Harmoniums, flutes, tabla drums, and bells are traditional instruments that accompany the vocal melodies.
Participants releasing oblations into the ceremonial fire.
Young devotees at the the Parmarth Niketan AshramAarti. The Aarti is held daily at sunset and open to all. It is very popular among tourists.
Aarti literally means “remover of darkness” and the ceremony involves circulating an Aarti plate or Aarti lamp. This act serves as a symbol of devotion to and sublimation with the divine light. It is customary for Aarti participants to hold their hands to the fire or fire lamp and then rub their faces and bodies with the “light.” This practice represents purification of the self through sublimating the self, which may have dark aspects, into the illumining nature of the divine.
Participating in the Aarti is a honor for the young devotees.
It is customary to release an Aarti plate into the river at the culmination of the Aarti ceremony. The plates contain ghee or camphor for burning as well as flowers, rice, incense, or other offerings in honor of a God or a person. The Ganga is sacred to Indians and it is commonly believed the river has healing powers.
A young boy who wanted to sell me an Aarti plate giving me a demonstration of how to perform the oblatory ritual of releasing an Aarti plate into the Ganges. Children are often tasked with the job of selling Aarti plates to tourists. They can be terribly persistent and, frankly speaking, very annoying — God bless them.