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Arti-Arta reference in Sikh Ethasik(Historical) Granths??


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I recall posting the entire Var last year in this respect, please do a search (mine wasn't too successful!).

The question that arises though is that does the mention of "Aarti-Sohila" correspond directly with the modern understanding of "Aarti"?

If, as most 'Sateeks' today indicate, the second Shabd of the Sohila Sahib (Asa M1, Che Ghar Che Gur...) is an indication of rejecting the Aarti Puja, what is the earliest source of such conclusion?

Also, on the subject of Aarti, the Sanatan Sikh sites and the Namdhari Sites are quick to claim that the Maryada of Guru Gobind Singh has been preserved intact and unchanged at Hazoor Sahib (the Namdhari reference, for avoidance of doubt tends to refer to the period of the 19th century, however the Sanatan Sikh cites continue to claim this as the present case). If so, why then have the Hazoori Singhs of Nanded altered the actual Maryada of Aarti-Arta from the circular rotation of the 'Thaal' to merely standing like a statue with the Thaal in hand? This is just one of many changes that has occurred in Hazoor Sahib quite contrary to the claims that 'all is intact'.

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It's a bit long but hopefully clarifies a few things...

To my mind the evidence really weighs in favour of accepting aarti with deepa and dhoop, and instead it should be the case for those against it to state on what evidence it is to be rejected.

Taking a one particular style of interpretation based on pre-conieved assumptions of particular verses of Guru Granth Sahib alone is by itself not a way of determining what and what isn't time-honoured maryada, as I could equally justify it’s practice using the same bani (various discussions still go on to no conclusion using Guru Granth Sahib alone to define what are practical issues of maryada). Therefore we must look to other sources as well.

Some things that spring to mind on this issue,

1) Guru Granth Sahib is nowadays adorned with the maryada that we see in texts and images of how the Gurus themselves were treated (e.g. chauri sahib, gaddi, palanquin, etc). By the time of Guru Arjun Dev ji and in particular Guru Hargobind ji the Guru's darbar was functioning akin to a Maharaja's darbar as sources of both political and social decision making, coupled with spiritual influence (miripiri). Hukamnamas were issued, an army was maintained, activities of hunting with nagara occurred, in line with the activities of a traditional maharaj, etc.

It would have to be a very specific distaste based on a very specific conceptual problem with the aarti ceremony of honouring a maharaj that would cause its rejection by Guru ji (and as such would be expected to appear in texts of the time) yet allowing for open maintenance of other aspects of traditional darbar maryada. There would have to have been something particularly disliked about for it not to have been performed, and as such one would expect such a particular dislike stipulated in guidance given by early quasi-rehitnamay.

An alternative explanation for all this is to a) to interpret Guru ji's bani as rejecting any possible form of symbollic practice, therefore B) assume Guru ji would not perform such ceremonies along with any other form of symbolic practice c) ignore historical accounts of such practices as a perversion of tradition by brahmins/hindus d) conclude that it is to be read alone not performed.

2) Bhai Gurdas' varan aim at setting out what is expected of the Sikh in daily practice, and it is clear that aarti is to be performed separately from sohilla (in other words, the wording denotes two separate things, not one). The question that arises here is which aarti? What is interesting here is that the earliest commentary I have seen on it is Swami Anandaghun Udasi (who later was responded to by Baba Santokh Singh in Garabganjani Steek), in which the aarti he adds commentary to is much shorter and (if my memory serves me well) is only Guru Nanak Dev ji's opening bani. I presume this is the section that is being referred to by Bhai Gurdas. How and when the varying shabds were collated together in practice, I don't know. The issue here is the same as that for the dasam bani section of Rehras Sahib. There is an issue as to who the focus is of the aarti recorded at this time. Was it to be part of darbar maryada and hence accorded to the Adi Granth Sahib as it stood then? These are questions I have yet no answer for. I have seen in traditional guru-puja for the disciple to initially perform the aarti verses to the Guru, and then if appropriate for the Guru to lead the aarti of the ishtdev.

3) Lets be absolutely clear on the Hazoor Sahib maryada here. In the recent video of aarti performed by the sevadar at the takhat, he holds it still (adorned with both ghee jot and camphor jot in elaborate deepa lamps on a thal) for the first few sections of the bani and then (after ‘sankhan ki…’ possibly) proceeds to wave it in circular motions toward Guru Granth Sahib and then moves and does the same of Dasam Granth Sahib. I saw the Patna Sahib aarti ceremony this summer, and this is toward the portrait and shaster of the Guru rather than Guru Granth Sahib and Dasam Granth Sahib. A conical aarti stand (with many deepas) on a thaal is used here and again moved in a circular motion. Having spoken with Mahant Tirath Singh he clarified that ALL sewapanthi institutions are expected to perform aarti with deepa, dhoop and shank. The recording I have of Guruwara Sis Ganj performs aarti with shank and phoolan, although no deepas.

4) As I stated earlier, the fact that all traditional orders, all traditional institutions, and traditional maryadas proceeding the Lahore Singh Sabha movement support this practice makes it a task for others to disprove its traditional role prior to the reforms. Apart from the Nirankaris I can’t think of anyone else who had rejected its practice (perhaps someone can add more). Furthermore, considering the differences between geographically diverse historical institutions and orders, it is surprising the consistency of the practice considering the diversity in other practices.

5) There is a secondary issue of the doctrinal assumptions that arise from exegesis of the meaning of the aarti bani. It is clear that nowhere does it state that aarti is not to be performed, it is instead investing the ceremony with cosmological significance. This is entirely concordant with the teachings of Sikhi, and furthermore that the practice of aarti is given a non-dualist angle in this composition. This is a common theme in Guruji's bani of pointing to the inner meaning of spiritual practices. In Japuji Sahib, Guru ji states that 'Mundaa santokh saram put jholi', pointing to the internalisation of the garments of a sadhu. The same arises within the teaching on the inner meanings of the practice of namaaz. Is Guru ji actually stating it should not be performed, or is he stating that one should invest it with deeper meaning as a means of internalising spiritual symbols? If he rejected any form of religious symbolism whatsoever, and that everything should have a purely functional purpose that would make key everyday practices in Sikhi redundant. If one accepts the 'ek jot' Guru philosophy then this thinking creates a conflict as there is no possible explanation for how symbolic practices have been instituted (and seemingly rejected) by the same jot.

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