Aarti is the symbolic waving of a lighted wick in a clockwise motion in front of the murti of Bhagwan while singing a prayer. It symbolizes the removal of darkness by true spiritual enlightenment. Aarti is a tradition dating back thousands of years. In ancient times, there was little light inside the mandirs, and even less light actually reached the garbha gruh, or the inner sanctum of the mandir where the murtis are located. The only way to have darshan of the murtis was from the light cast from a divo, a clay lamp with a cotton wick dipped in ghee. During aarti, this lamp was held near each part of the murti so that devotees could properly see all the parts of the murti. Today, millions of Hindus devoutly perform aarti in their homes or attend aarti at mandirs everyday.
In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, the aarti was written by Sadguru Muktanand Swami 200 years ago. After his guru Ramanand Swami passed away and appointed Bhagwan Swaminarayan as his successor, Muktanand Swami was reluctant to accept Bhagwan Swaminarayan as the present form of God. Ramanand Swami gave him divine darshan and explained the true greatness of Bhagwan Swaminarayan. Muktanand Swami rushed to Bhagwan Swaminarayan and seated Him on Ramanand Swami’s asana. From his heart flowed the words to the aarti, singing, “Jay Sadguru Swami….” Since then, this particular aarti is performed daily in Swaminarayan Sampraday mandirs and devotees’ homes.
Devotees visit their local mandirs and participate in this sacred ritual on a daily basis. In shikharbaddha mandirs, aarti is performed five times a day, while in hari mandirs, aarti is performed two times a day.