Arti 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. Arti 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 arti, 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 arti in their homes or attend arti at mandirs every day.
In the Swaminarayan Sampraday, around 66 artis have been composed by the paramhansas. Of these, the most commonly sung is the arti written by Sadguru Muktanand Swami. 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 arti, “Jay Sadguru Swami….”
Based on the Akshar-Purushottam doctrine revealed by Bhagwan Swaminarayan, Brahmaswarup Shastriji Maharaj (Swami Yagnapurushdasji), the third spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, enshrined the murtis of Parabrahman Purushottam Bhagwan Swaminarayan and Aksharbrahman Gunatitanand Swami in the central shrines of majestic BAPS shikharbaddha mandirs in Gujarat. Thus, he established the tradition of offering devotion to Purushottam (Narayan) and his ideal devotee Akshar (Swami).
In keeping with the Hindu Dharma tradition of singing the glory of the enshrined deities of a mandir, His Holiness Mahant Swami Maharaj, the sixth spiritual successor of Bhagwan Swaminarayan, inspired the composition of an arti dedicated to the glory of Akshar and Purushottam, that is, Swami and Narayan. This arti is known as the ‘Shri Swaminarayan Arti’. It sings the praise of Swami or Akshar and Narayan or Purushottam.
This Shri Swaminarayan Arti is sung daily in BAPS mandirs, countless homes and on festive occasions reminding disciples of the glory of the divine forms of Akshar and Purushottam to whom they offer devotion.
Devotees visit their local mandirs and participate in this sacred ritual on a daily basis. In shikharbaddha mandirs, arti is performed five times a day, while in hari mandirs, arti is performed two times a day.