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Discussions specifically related with the various aspects of practice of bhakti-sadhana in Gaudiya Vaishnavism.

Purpose of the arati ceremony -

gauraprema - Tue, 10 Sep 2002 20:23:48 +0530
Dear devotees,

Dandavats. Jai Sri Radhe!

I was just reading Srila Ananta Das Pandit Maharaja's commentary to Srila Raghunatha Das Goswamipada's Navastakam, and in there, in Ananta Das Pandit's commentary to the first verse he writes,

"Srimati thought: 'How difficult it must be for Syama to come here over the thorny pathways at night! There can be no other cause than this for HIs delay!' In this way, it is as if She worshipped Krsna's path with billions of flowers of her life, so that all obstacles would be removed from His way."

At the end of the sentence, there is a note that says that 'this is the purpose of the arati ceremony.'

Which led me to wonder, what exactly is the raganuga explanation for the purpose of the arati ceremony that we perform to our Thakurjis at home, and what is the significance of each item?

Please explain, I am eager to know. Thank you so much beloved prabhus.

Your servant
Sudevi dasi
jiva - Wed, 11 Sep 2002 01:57:29 +0530
As much I know,the word 'arati' literally means ''before night''.Ratri (night) when prefaced with the letter 'a' indicates dusk.The waving of the lamp before the Deity thus implies the dispelling of the night of our material sojourn with the light of devotion through which God is revealed.

During the arati,first and foremost the devotee offers himself.In the traditional arati ceremony,the flower represents the earth (solidity),the water and the accompanying handkerchief
correspond with the water element(liquidity).The lamp represents the fire element(heat),the peacock fan the air (movement),and the yak tail camara fan the ether(space).The incense represents
the purified state of mind,and one's intelligence is offered in the discrimination required with regard to timing and order,etc...

The path of raga requires that the sadhaka regularly contemplate the eternal lilas of Radha-Krsna,and thus the sadhaka thinks of the arati ceremonies throughout the day in relation to the eightfold
daily pastimes of Radha-Krsna.

I may give explanation of this at a further time,but I must warn you that I  am only a theorist, and that is not all that much, I admit.
Radhapada - Wed, 11 Sep 2002 16:29:07 +0530
In many ancient cultures throughout the world the use of flower oil aromas have been used not only to create a pleasant atmosphere, but also used for therapeutic reasons. Thus the offering of frangrant incence can be seen as an offering to protect the Deity from ailments and any other inauspiciousness. The offering of lamp burns away inauspiciousness. The conch shell with water is used to bath the Deity with nectar as well the cloth to wipe away any misfortune. Of course the Deity has no need for such offerings, but it is done out of love. Just like Yasoda binds a protective kavaca around the wrist of Krsna before he goes out to tend the cows so the devotee offers his Deity articles to protect his Thakur. Fans are used after Krsna's love play with Radha to dry the sweat drops of fatigue from Their body.

Bhaktivinoda Thakur writes in one song how he offers Sri Krsna the lamplight of his love and tears from his eyes. Eyes look like conch shells. Mahaprabhu ceremonously bathed His Govardhana Sila with the tears from His conch shell-like eyes.
Madhava - Wed, 11 Sep 2002 18:07:41 +0530
There are certainly millions of explanations for the arati ceremony. According to the flow of his bhava, the sadhaka will experience the ingredients of the arati as uddipana which invoke remembrance of lila in his mind, and as the waves in the ocean of his moods swell, the particular remembrance invoked by each ingredient varies.

At the end of the night, the sadhaka may be captivated by the beautiful vision of Sri Yugala Kishora (Krishna Bhavanamritam, chapter 1):

ghUrNAlasAkSaM zlatha sarva gAtraM
visrasta kezaM rasika-dvayaM tat |
bhugnopavezaM skhalane kathaJcid
anyonyam AlambanataM prapede || 38 ||

parasparAMsa-dvaya data doryuga
nyastAGga-bhAraM nata puSTa zobhitam |
sanmoTanAd unmukham Asya pankaja-
dvayaM parikrAntim ivAyan mithaH || 39 ||

tadaiva jRmbhottha radAMsu-jAla
mANikya-dIpair nirarAjayat kim |
sanidram unmudra dRganta lakSmI
rasajJayAnyonya vilihyamAnam || 40 ||

“For some time, the two lovers hung against each other, their eyes rolling of fatigue and their hair disheveled. They sat facing each other, supporting their bodily weight on each others’ shoulders. They raised their mouths as they yawned and stretched out their bodies. It looked as if their lotus-like faces were circumambulating each other. With the rays of the lamps of their pearl-like teeth they performed the arati of each others’ faces, and with the tongue-like corners of their beautiful, slightly opened eyes they relished each others’ sweetness.”

As the Divine Couple awakens, the sadhaka may be absorbed in the arati performed by a maidservant (Krishna Bhavanamritam, chapter 2):

srastAlakan veSTita hARa nAsA-
alaGkAra tAtaGka-yugan athaitam |
sva pANinotsArayituM vihastAM
vIkSyAha kAcit svayam AnavaktrA || 13 ||

mitho nibadhyAtanu samprahAriNau
yuvAM pryiAvapy avalokya rAginau |
amI vyarudhyanta parasparaM balAd
ekAtma-bhAva api kuntalAdayaH || 14 ||

jAnAmi yuSmAn api sAdhu tuSNIM
tat tiSThateti prativAdinIM tAm |
upetya tad granthi vimocanAdau
paTIyasI sA suukhiM siSeva || 15 ||

kAcit prasUnAmbudarArdra vAsasA
vyatyasta rAgAJjana yAvakAdikam |
mRSTvA prati svekSaNa siddhaye tayor
mukha-dvayaM darpaNatA ninAya kim || 16 ||

tAmbUla vITir nidadhe parAsminn
ekA paTimna maNi dIpa pAlyA |
tan maGgalAratrikam Azu cakre
nIrAjayanty eva nijAsu lakSaiH || 17 ||

Adarzam Adarzayati sma kAcit
parAGga nepathyam upAjahAra |
jahAra kAcit zrama-bindu-jAlaM
zanaiH zanais tAv upavIjayantI || 18 ||

“When Sri Radhika became eager to untie the string of Her nose-ring and Her earrings from Her locks with Her own hands, one maidservant saw it, giggled and said: ‘O loving couple! The incorporal Cupid bound You up with the strings of Your mutual passion through your hairs, earrings, nose-rings and so forth. Now these ornaments want to oppose him by becoming entangled with each other, although You are one soul!’

Hearing this, fair-faced Radhika became annoyed and said: ‘O you maidservants! I know you! Keep quiet!’ Despite hearing this, the maidservants kept on giggling, expertly serving Her by untying the knots.

One maidservant slightly soaked a very soft and valuable cloth in rose-water and wiped the eyeliner, lipstick, footlac etc. from the faces of Radha and Krishna, making them shine like mirrors. One maidservant placed betel leaves in their mouths, another one quickly and expertly performed their mangala-aratrika with a jeweled lamp as if she waved around thousands of her hearts, other maidservants held mirrors before them, some brought in body-ornaments and another one removed their sweat drops by softly fanning them.

On occasion, the sadhaka may be absorbed in the nocturnal arati performed by the maidservants with their delicate bodies (Krishna Bhavanamritam, chapter 20, notes by Sri Radhikanatha Gosvami):

UrvoH svayo kanaka pIThayoH kramAn
nidhAya padAmburuhe nijezayoH |
dve dAsike tac chayanAnta saGgate
dRg bindubhiH pAdyam ivopajahratuH || 11 ||

udbhinna romAGkurapAlir eva
prAparghyatAM kintu tayApi zaGkAm |
tan mArdavAlocanayA dadhatyau
pANy ambujair ArcayatAm ivaite || 12 ||

gandhaM tu kastUry amRta supaGkair
vaksaH-sthala-sthair upakalpya sadyaH |
niHzvAsa dhUpair nakha ratna-dIpai
Aloka mAlyair dhinutaH sma nItyA || 13 ||

naivedyatAyAM harakAv urojau
saMsparzanenAbhim atau vidhAya |
prANa pradIpaiH smita candra mizraH
nirmaJchamaM prema-bharad vyadhattAm || 14 ||

“Two maidservants held the lotus feet of Radha and Krishna on their thighs which were like golden seats and worshiped these feet, offering padya (foot water) with their teardrops and arghya (hand water) with their hairs which were standing up in ecstacy. (Just as worshipers place their deities on an altar to serve Them items like padya, the kinkaris placed Radha and Krishna’s lotus feet on the altars of their thighs.) But this frightened them with the thought that Their tender lotus feet might be hurt by these erect hairs.

They worshiped these lotus feet (by massaging them) with their lotus-like hands, offerec scents with musk and camphor from their breasts, incence with their breaths (although normally incence is offered before the flowers -- the lotuses of the kinkaris’ hands), lamps with their shining jewel-like nails, garlands with their glances, foodstuffs with their pomegranade-like breasts and a camphor lamp with their very life-airs, which are full of love and are mixed with the moonlight of their smiles.”

On occasion, the sadhaka may become plunged into remembrance of the Divine Couple wandering in the forests of Vraja, remembering the arati offered by the trees and vines of Vraja. As described by Vrinda Devi (Govinda Lilamrita, chapter 12):

svotpannAneka sat puSpa tulasIdala maJjarIH |
pallavAMzcArpayantyeSA taiH kRtAz ca bahu srajaH || 58 ||

Urdhva prasarpad vara saurabhormI
lolAli mAlAmiSato ‘tra dhUpam |
dIpaM calad gandhaphalIcchalena
naivedya miSTaiH svaphalair dadAnA || 59 ||

rambhA garbhaja karpUra labaGgailAdi saMyutaiH |
samarpayantI tAmbUlaM sva pUgAhilatA dalaiH || 60 ||

svayaM patadbhiH kusumaiH subAhava kulAdibhiH |
puSpavarSaM vidadhatI zarI zuka jaya svanaiH || 61 ||

maruccalaccampaka zAkhikAdoz
chadAgrapANyutkalikAli dIpaiH |
virAva vAdyair alinAda gAnair
nIrAjayantyadya mudATavI vAm || 62 ||

samIraNotthApita pAtitair muhuH
zAkhAcayaiH puSpa phalAni pallavaiH |
namrair mudAsau yuvayor vitanvatI
pAdAmbujAgre ‘mita daNDavan natim || 63 ||

“Vrindavana offers You different kinds of garlands with the best self-grown flowers, Tulasi-leaves and buds as well as sprouts. The forest offers you incence with soaring waves of fragrance in the form of its restless bumblebees, a lamp with its swaying Campaka-flowers and foodstuffs with their sweet fruits. The barks of the banana-trees offer You betel leaves with camphor, cardamom and cloves it produces itself along with the guvak and leaves from the betel vines. Bakula and Sephalika-flowers spontaneously fall from the trees as a flower shower (puspanjali), while the sari and suka-parrots sing Your glories!

The buds of the CAmpaka-flowers that grow on the tips of the branches are like lamps for offering to You, waved by the wind. The songs of the birs are like the playing of musical instruments and the humming of the bees are like the songs sung in arati that the forest joyfully offers to you. The branches of the trees blissfully bow down to You with their burden of flowers, fruits and sprouts, swaying up and down in the wind. They blissfully offer innumerable obeisances to Your lotus feet!”

On occasion, the sadhaka may remember Yugala Kisora swinging in a forest of Kadamba-trees during mid-day (Krishna Bhavanamritam, chapter 11):

madhye tAsAM kAJcid aJcat patAkAM
vIkSyAruhya zyAma dhAma vireje |
zobhA-devyA sevyamAnam ivaitAM
manye mUrtAnanda evAdhyatiSThat || 17 ||

karSan kAntAM harSa varSAsu samyak
timyan hastAlambam AlambamAnAm |
uddApyaitAM svAgrato jAgrataH
kiM premNo vApIm Apipat svAbhimukhyam || 18 ||

puSpAvalyArAtrikeNAsya padma-
dvandvaM nIrAjyAli-saGgha sagAnam |
hAroSNiSAdyApayan susthitatvaM
srak tAmbUla sthAsakaiH paryacArIt || 19 ||

“Syama saw the best of these swings, one with a flag on it, and climbed on it. It was as if ecstasy personified sat down on theswing that was served by the goddess of beauty. To get completely showered by the rain, Krishna pulled His beloved, who held His hand, on the swing and placed Her facing Him. Have They now become like the embodiment of bliss facing a sleepless pond of love?

The sakhis and maidservants served Radha and Krishna by throwing flowers, offering arati to Their lotus-like faces, singing, straightening Their necklaces and Krishna’s turban and serving Them pan, garlands and Sthasaka (a mixture of sandal, vermillion, musk and camphor.”

Thus there are no limits to the inner absorption and delight of the sadhaka during the arati ceremony.
Madhava - Wed, 11 Sep 2002 18:47:49 +0530
Sripad Raghunatha Das prays (Vilapa Kusumanjali, verse 53):

ArAtrikena bhavatIM kim u devi devIM
nirmaJchayiSyatitarAM lalitA pramodAt |
anyAlayaz ca nava maGgala gAna puSpaiH
prANArbudair api kacair api dAsikeyam || 53 ||

“O Devi! While Lalita joyfully performs the arati-ceremony to You, and the other sakhis worship You with new, auspicious songs and flowers, can this maidservant, to whom You are dearer than billions of lives, worship You with her hair?”

Sri Ananta Das Pandit comments:

”Sripada Raghunatha dasa is deeply absorbed in his svarupavesa. In the way he experiences things in his smarana, dreams, or visions he reveals his desires for attaining devotional service. After taking Her meal Svamini holds court with Her sakhis, sitting on a beautiful raised jeweled seat, enjoying a pan. Now Lalita, the leader of the sakhis, will perform Her arati with lamps, incense and so on. The maidservants bring all the paraphernalia. One wave of devotional service after the other is coming over them. No one knows how to serve Radha so expertly as Her maidservants. Without full surrender one cannot perceive this devotional service to Radharani.
Srila Raghunatha Dasa Gosvami now does not see Radhakunda anymore, he sees Sri Radhika chewing pan on Her jeweled sofa in Yavata. How sweetly She’s sitting there, chewing pan and floating in the nectar of laughter and joking with Her girlfriends! Now there will be arati. In the summer arati is done with a plain lamp, in the winter with a jeweled lamp. The ‘aratrika’, or arati-ceremony is meant to remove obstacles or inauspiciousness. In the sweet rasa of Vraja there are so many obstacles for Radha-Krishna in Their extra-marital relationship. In Govinda Lilamrta (8.18), Sri Radhika personally explains what kind of obstacles She has to face:

nanandA vidveSTrI patir ati kaTuH sApi kuTilA
dhavAmba me padmA prabhRti ripu-pakSaz ca balavAn |
vanaM vyAptaM sarvaM vraja dhana janair ahni sakhibhir
vRtaH kRSNo labhyaH katham iha bhaved vighna bahule || 18 ||

“My sister-in-law envies Me, My husband is very harsh and My mother-in-law is very crooked. The enemies’ party, with gopis like Padma, is very strong, and Krishna is out there somewhere in the fields at daytime, always surrounded by His cows and His friends! How then will I meet Krishna when there are so many obstacles?”

Aratrika is performed for a smooth meeting with Krishna later, at nightfall, by Govinda Sthali or other places in Vrindavana, after which Sri Radhika can enjoy Herself with Him by dancing the Rasa, playing in the water of the Yamuna, drinking honey wine and wandering in the forest with Him. For such an auspicious accomplishment this aratrika is performed. Lalita will perform this loving ceremony. Her bodily complexion is like Gorocana-pigment, she’s a little older in age, and has a very harsh (loving) nature. She orders different people around while Tulasi brings the arati-paraphernalia.

Svamini sits down like a steady lightning streak, that’s why She is addressed in the verse as Devi. Devi kohe dyotamana paramasundari (C.C.) –Devi means effulgent and most beautiful. A wonderful golden light emanates from Her body. She feels that Syama is close to Her. He plays in Her heart. In bhavollasa (times of meeting, Ed.) She is krida vasati nagari (C.C.), living in the town of play. How many past sports Svamini remembers during the arati, like pictures arising in Her mind! In the same way Lalita performs the arati of the Divine Pair together in the kunja, in the presence of the sakhis and manjaris! How beautiful! How sweet this is! The boat of Svamini’s mind sinks in the river of remembrance of Krishna and that can be seen by the soft sweet smile on Her lotus like face. How does She laugh? The Bhagavata says, hasaty atho roditi rauti gAyaty unmAdavan nRtyati loka bAhyaH – “He laughs, cries, sings and dances like mad, ignoring the people!” That is the condition of someone who has prema. What then to say of the condition of maha-bhavamayi Radha?

During the ceremony there are no bells ringing. With sweet voices the sakhis sing new auspicious songs to burn up all inauspiciousness, while Lalita lovingly swings the lamp around before Svamini. This arati is a great ceremony of divine love. The light of the lamp even increases the effulgence of Sri Radhika’s face, which mocks the lustre of molten gold. All the sakhis and manjaris sing and dance, spinning around and around. Lalita blows a conch shell and some kinkaris shower their beloved Svamini with flowers. Some sing ‘Jaya Jaya’ and others make the ulu-dhvani (a high sound made while moving the tongue in the mouth). How brightly Svamini shimmers during the arati! She certainly deserves the name Devi! Lalita offers a conch shell with water and then she wipes away all kinds of misfortune with a handkerchief. Lalita is the embodiment of love, and with all her love she performs this ceremony.

The sadhaka will relish these pastimes in his meditations; it is very sweet. Smarana manera prANa, madhura madhura dhAma (Prema Bhakti Candrika.) – “smaraNa is the life of the mind and the abode of all sweetness.” In the end Tulasi, who stands in the back, worships Svamini with billions of hearts, by opening her braid, taking her hair in the hand before her bosom and waving it around as an offering to Svamini. The hair is black, Krishna is also black. What a wonderful way to remind Svamini of Krishna! Svamini sits alone on Her sofa, but over the pathways of their minds (smriti-pathe) the maidservants bring Her Syama there also, to sit on Her right side. After arati there are singing-lessons and examinations in singing and dancing in the assembly of sakhis. There’s no limit to the ecstasy! [The narration above is drawn from Ananda Gopala Gosvami.]

Suddenly the transcendental vision of Sri Raghunatha breaks, and he weeps and prays:

zrI kRSNa preyasI tumi he devi rAdhike!
Ananda lalitA sakhI, hoiyA prabhulla mukhI
nirmaJchana koribe tomAke

‘O Devi Radhike, You are Sri Krishna’s dearmost beloved! Lalita-sakhi’s face will bloom with ecstacy when she offers You worship!’

sugandhi pradIpa jvAli, apara sakala Ali,
mahAnande ho’ye eka prAna
puSpAJjali diyA yabe, Arati koribe sabe,
gAhibe maGgala stuti-gAna

‘As the fragrant incense burns, all the other sakhis, who are one life out of mutual love, blissfully offer You arati by throwing flowers at You and singing auspicious songs.’

e dAsIra abhilASa, hAte loiyA keza-pAza,
Arati koribo koTi prane
tuyA priya ei sevA, kobe vA AmAre dibA,
kichu nAhi bhAya ihA vine

(Sri Rasika Candra dasa)

‘This maidservant desires to hold her braided hair in her hands and thus perform arati with millions of life-airs. When will You give me that beloved service? I don’t want anything else but that!’”

In this way the meaning of the arati-ceremony is wonderfully revealed!
gauraprema - Wed, 11 Sep 2002 22:30:40 +0530
Dear prabhus,

Jai Sri Radhe!

Oh what sweet nectar has this question managed to cause in the churning of remembrances of so many varieties of arati ceremonies!

Thank you so much prabhus for your contributions, I really appreciate it, this is real nectar!

Sudevi dasi