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Communal Relations - Conflicting Narratives
Will post other couple of reasons (ayurvedic) later on, but for now.....

<b>Hindu Rituals and routines-why do we follow those</b>


<b>Why do we do Aarathi?</b>

Towards the end of every ritualistic worship (pooja or bhajan) of the Lord or to welcome an honoured guest or saint, we perform the Aarathi. This is always accompanied by the ringing of the bell and sometimes by singing, playing of musical instruments and clapping.

It is one of the sixteen steps (Shodasha Upachaara) of the pooja ritual. It is referred to as the lighted lamp in the right hand, which we wave in a clockwise circling movement to light the entire form of the Lord.  Each part is revealed individually and also the entire form of the Lord. As the light is waved we either do mental or loud chanting of prayers or simply behold the beautiful form of the Lord, illumined by the lamp. At the end of the Aarathi we place our hands over the flame and then gently touch our eyes and the top of the head.  We have seen and participated in this ritual from our childhood. Let us find out why we do the Aarathi?  Having worshipped the Lord of love - performing Abhisheka, decorating the image and offering fruits and delicacies, we see the beauty of the Lord in all His glory. Our minds are focused on each limb of the Lord as it is lit up by the lamp. It is akin to silent open-eyed meditation on His beauty. The singing, clapping, ringing of the bell etc. denote the joy and auspiciousness, which accompanies the vision of the Lord. 

Aarathi is often performed with camphor. This holds a telling spiritual significance. Camphor when lit burns itself out completely without leaving a trace of it. It represents our inherent tendencies (vaasanas). When lit by the fire of knowledge which illumines the Lord (Truth), our vaasanas thereafter burn themselves out completely, not leaving a trace of ego which creates in us a sense of individuality that keeps us separate from the Lord.

Also while camphor burns to reveal the glory of Lord, it emits a pleasant perfume even while it sacrifices itself. In our spiritual progress, even as we serve the guru and society, we should willingly sacrifice ourselves and all we have, to spread the "perfume" of love to all. We often wait a long while to see the illumined Lord but when the Aarathi is actually performed, our eyes close automatically as if to look within. This is to signify that each of us is a temple of the Lord. 

Just as the priest reveals the form of the Lord clearly with the Aarathi flame, so too the guru reveals to us the divinity within each of us with the help of the "flame" of knowledge (or the light of spiritual knowledge). At the end of the Aarathi, we place our hands over the flame and then touch our eyes and the top of the head. It means - may the light that illuminated the Lord light up my vision; may my vision be divine and my thoughts noble and beautiful.  The philosophical meaning of Aarathi extends further. The sun, moon, stars, lightning and fire are the natural sources of light. The Lord is the source of these wonderous phenomenons of the universe. It is due to Him alone that all else exist and shine. As we light up the Lord with the flame of the Aarathi, we turn our attention to the very source of all light that symbolizes knowledge and life. Also the sun is the presiding deity of the intellect, the moon, that of the mind, and fire, that of speech. The Lord is the supreme consciousness that illuminates all of them. Without Him, the intellect cannot think, nor can the mind feel nor the tongue speaks. The Lord is beyond the mind, intellect and speech. How can this finite equipment illuminate the Lord? Therefore, as we perform the Aarathi we chant: 

      Na tatra suryo bhaati na chandra taarakam

      Nemaa vidyuto bhaanti kutoyamagnib

      Tamev a bhaantam anubhaati sarvam

      Tasya bhasa sarvam idam vibhaati
Can you provide references about camphor's significance and the "perfume" factor?

Also I would like to read more about Aarti being used to illuminate different parts of the idol. Is there material around?

Whatever I have read so far all point to the thought of keeping "evil eye" and "evil spirits" away from the person and devata. So if you have material that shed more light , it would clarify certain things in my mind. Thanks.
Look at this site: http://www.geocities.com/prakashjm45/aar...versy.html

It starts of with a warning about the material being unsuitable for minors, and being obscene, shocking, immoral... I was thinking "Okay, one more good porn site" <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo--> But the nut-case disappointed me.
<!--QuoteBegin-SwamyG+Apr 21 2007, 08:39 AM-->QUOTE(SwamyG @ Apr 21 2007, 08:39 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->
Also I would like to read more about Aarti being used to illuminate different parts of the idol. Is there material around?


Aagama shastras
Any gentle yindoo jingo (hint, hint <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo--> ) care to summarize this thread so far - better yet, an article that can front end the forum page (and referred to)? It can be foreword to the next thread "Hindu Narrative", soon and current one closed. Thanks.
<!--QuoteBegin-k.ram+Apr 21 2007, 06:43 PM-->QUOTE(k.ram @ Apr 21 2007, 06:43 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin--><!--QuoteBegin-SwamyG+Apr 21 2007, 08:39 AM--><div class='quotetop'>QUOTE(SwamyG @ Apr 21 2007, 08:39 AM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->
Also I would like to read more about Aarti being used to illuminate different parts of the idol. Is there material around?


Aagama shastras

Thanks K Ram for posting that info about Aratis.

In fact the description and explanation seems to take one back into hoary history when there were no electric bulbs, and lighting was from lamps alone. Hence the need for spot lighting.

I have heard (and have access to some material written by elders in my family) that speak of some poojas - specifically at Ganesh chaturthi. The entire process is one of a mental "invitation" of a God to come and sit in a place that has been arranged for him.

The pooja area is washed, prepared and decorated and the deity invited to take the place of the idol for the duration of the pooja. The decoration of the idol itself can be based on ones own mind's view of the splendor of God.

In modern day terms - Hindu worship is nothing short of a multimedia son et lumiere affair, and meant to be a better visual, auditory and olfactory treat than most other forms of worship . This simple fact seems to have got lost in the mists of time.

The Hindu relationship with God is one of friendship and trust, with no fear or quaking at an ill tempered God who might make you suffer if you don't do something mind numbingly absurd.
<!--QuoteBegin-SwamyG+Apr 20 2007, 03:19 PM-->QUOTE(SwamyG @ Apr 20 2007, 03:19 PM)<!--QuoteEBegin-->Look at this site: http://www.geocities.com/prakashjm45/aar...versy.html

It starts of with a warning about the material being unsuitable for minors, and being obscene, shocking, immoral... I was thinking "Okay, one more good porn site" <!--emo&Big Grin--><img src='style_emoticons/<#EMO_DIR#>/biggrin.gif' border='0' style='vertical-align:middle' alt='biggrin.gif' /><!--endemo--> But the nut-case disappointed me.

This is the best I have seen, Can you save this site.

Indian rocket scientist A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, a nominal Muslim but with ties to Hindu Fascists who admire Hitler, and who made him the current Indian President,</b> being worshipped with the traditional "Aarti" during the inauguration function of Neo-Pharma Ltd.'s factory in Abu Dhabi, U.A.E. / Trucial Oman, Persian Gulf, on Sunday, October 19, 2003. From the Government of India's Press Information Bureau website.
my dad used to say, we use camphor (Cinnamonum camphora) because of its ayurvedic medicinal properties. Our culture ensures we use natural products such that its use becomes part of life.

when we go to temple, normally we frequent more so, when we are in trouble or in need of some meditative mind or to get a state of free of day to day problems, and get to get some peace of time.

the camphor helps there.. its slightly antiseptic properties and its numbing properties on peripheral nervous system, helps people to give that effect we seek., when go to temple., especially when offered with holy-ash, that is burned with camphor, we get to the feeling of relieved and get a nice feeling.

this also makes you forget the problems you were occupied in your mind before you went to temple.

<!--QuoteBegin-->QUOTE<!--QuoteEBegin-->here is a link that talks about Cinnamonum camphora medicinal values:-
---Medicinal Action and Uses---Camphor has a strong, penetrating, fragrant odour, a bitter, pungent taste, and is slightly cold to the touch like menthol leaves; locally it is an irritant, numbs the peripheral sensory nerves, and is slightly antiseptic; it is not readily absorbed by the mucous membrane, but is easily absorbed by the subcutaneous tissue- it combines in the body with glucuronic acid, and in this condition is voided by the urine. Experiments on frogs show a depressant action to the spinal column, no motor disturbance, but a slow increasing paralysis; in mankind it causes convulsions, from the effect it has on the motor tract of the brain; <b>it stimulates the intellectual centres and prevents narcotic drugs taking effect, but in cases of nervous excitement it has a soothing and quieting result.</b> Authorities vary as to its effect on blood pressure; some think it raises it, others take an opposite view; but it has been proved valuable as an excitant in cases of heart failure, whether due to diseases or as a result of infectious fevers, such as typhoid and pneumonia, not only in the latter case as a stimulant to circulation, but as preventing the growth of pneumococci. Camphor is used in medicine internally for its calming influence in hysteria, nervousness and neuralgia, and for serious diarrhoea, and externally as a counter-irritant in rheumatisms, sprains bronchitis, and in inflammatory conditions, and sometimes in conjunction with menthol and phenol for heart failure; it is often given hypodermically, 3 to 5 grains dissolved in 20 to 30 minims of sterile Olive oil - the effect will last about two hours. In nervous diseases it may be given in substance or in capsules or in spirit; dose 2 to 5 grains. Its great value is in colds, chills, and in all inflammatory complaints; it relieves irritation of the sexual organs.



Why do we apply Vibhuti or Holy Ash over our body?
Vibhuti (meaning glory) or Bhasma (that by which our sins are destroyed and the Lord is remembered) is the holy ash that Hindus apply over their forehead and body. This holy ash is created by burning cow dung along with milk, ghee, honey, etc. It is a principle sacrament in the worship of Lord Siva, representing His burning away of our ignorance to ashes.

The cow dung is obtained from a cows that are fed sixteen varieties of medicinal leaves. The dung of these cows are collected after allowing sufficient time for digestion. The collected dung would then be formed into flat cakes and dried in the sun. 108 types of herbs, and twigs ['Samithi'] of high medicinal value are used in the homa (http://www.hindunet.org/homa) in which the dried dung cakes are added. Six types of medicinal leaves are burnt along with these. The significance of using ash from the homa is that the impurities - physical and mental (ego, desires) are burnt off in the fire, and what remains is now pure - and the application of this ash serves as a reminder of this. The vibhuti we apply indicates that we should burn false identification with body and become free of the limitations of birth and death.
Applying vibhuti is a much more common practice amognst Shivites.

Vibhuti or Bhasma has medicinal properties and is used in many ayurvedic medicines. It absorbs excess moisture from the body and prevents colds and headches.

Why do we apply a mark on our forehead?
The Tilaka is normally a vermilion mark applied on the forehead. This mark has a religious significance and is a visible sign of a person as belonging to the Hindu religion. The Tilaka is of more than one color although normally it is vermilion. It also does not have any standard shape and form and is applied differently by members of different Hindu sects and sub-sects. It is applied as a 'U' by worshippers of lord Vishnu and is red, yellow or saffron in colpur. It is made up of red ochre powder (Sindhura) and sandalwood paste (Gandha). Worshippers of lord Shiva apply it as three horizontal lines and it consists of ash (Bhasma). Soot (Abhira) is also used as a pigment for applying a Tilaka.

Literally, Tilaka means a mark. Sindhura which is also used to describe a Tilaka means red and Gandha which is also a term for Tilaka means pleasant odour. Hence, Tilaka normally connotes, a red mark with a pleasant odour. Some scholars have seen the red colour as a symbolism for blood. We are told that in ancient times, in Aryan society, a groom used to apply his blood, on-his bride's forehead as a recognition of wedlock. The existing practice among Indian women of applying a round shaped red Tilaka called Bindiya or Kumkum could be a survival of this.
2000-Oct-13 7:05pm webmaster@hindunet.org
There are a couple more explanations for why Hindus apply the "tilak" mark on their foreheads. A spiritual explanation is that the "tilak" symbolises the third eye that we believe in. A practical explanation is that the "tilak" is a way to draw attention to the eyes which in traditional Indian culture have been very strongly associated with beauty.


another interesting link:


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