The above picture is of Mangala Harathi to the Gods on the occasion of Tholi Ekadashi Pooja at our house, yesterday. We, for that matter every Indian knows what Harathi is, sometimes spelled and pronounced as Harati, Arathi, Aarti, Arati or Arti. Everyone knows that Harathi is a light from lit cotton-wicks soaked in ghee or oil or mostly from lit camphor, on a Harathi plate or holder, and performed as the last main ritual at the end of any worship / Pooja. And we know that after Harathi, Theertha-Prasadams along with God’s blessings with Shatagopam and Akshinthalu are offered to us by the priest. However I find that some amongst us do not know the true and entire significance of Harathi.
I understand that Harathi ritual has come to us from ancient times, through Rig Veda. This Sanskrit word Harathi means the show of our highest love and worship to the Gods...Aradhana. At the end of any Pooja the Harathi is lit, with that comes the flame which signifies light. The Harathi holder you see at the top is called Pancha Pradeep or Pancha Harathi, which has six cavities, the peripheral five lamps are cotton wick oil lamps and the larger one at the centre is a camphor lit lamp. Harathi is waived in front of the Idols and Images of Gods in full circles in clockwise direction to the accompaniment of ringing bell / bells and (or) clapping, singing of devotional Harathi Paatalu and playing of traditional music. At the end of every two or three circles the Harathi is slightly waived backwards at the bottom of the circle. These movements of the lit lamps allow us to focus and see the beauty of the Gods in all their glory, the camphor emits a pleasant fragrance which purifies the environment and creates a sense of happiness, and the accompanying sound of bells, clapping and songs raise our spiritual emotions and enable us to worship the Gods with full concentration and satisfaction. When the Harathi is brought to us we place our hands over the flame and touch our eyes and the top of our head meaning ‘May the light that illumined the Gods light up my vision and may my thoughts be pure and beautiful’.
Harathi is also given to persons on auspicious occasions as an act of respect or love and blessings and to ward off evil effects and malefic influence.
The picture at the bottom of this article is of an electrically operated ‘Temple Drum Bell Machine’ or simply ‘Harathi Machine’ which we gave as an offering to a Temple near our house. It has a huge drum, two large bells and two cymbals which produce a very impressive music during Harathi times of the Temple.