Thursday, 5 January 2012

What's in a name?

Although my name is spelt as 'Aarthi' and is pronounced as 'Aar-thee', over the years, I have noticed that some people used 'Aarathi' too and pronounced my name that way (as 'Aa-ra-thee').

Is there a difference in the meaning of the two? I guess there is. In fact, there is one line in the Sai Ashtottara Namavali that says 'Om Sri Sai Aarthi haraaya namaha'. In this context, 'Aarthi' actually means 'distress' and Swami is hailed as the 'Remover of distress'. The actual 'Aarathi' signifies the waving of camphor as an offering to God, in Hindu rituals and poojas. 

I'm sure my parents did not intend to give me a name that had a negative meaning, when they named me as a child. However, now, when I delve deeper into the significance of the name, I feel there are two ways of interpreting it.

Once, during my college days, when I had to meet the principal for some approval, he asked my name and how it was spelt. That time, he remarked that my name had a negative connotation and that I should probably consider adding another 'A' and make it 'Aarathi', so that the positive meaning was conveyed. I just shrugged and didn't give much thought to it.

I even remember how one of my lecturers always called me 'Aa-ra-thee' and never as 'Aarthi'. I used to get bugged, as I felt 'Aarthi' was the right way my name should be pronounced. In fact, one of my close friends always used to tease me about this and he would first say 'Aa-ra-thee' and then say 'Oh sorry! I mean, Aarthi' and then he would proceed to talk to me. Sometimes, I used to get angry with him. At other times, I used to laugh it off. Even now, in his emails, sometimes, he uses 'Aarathi' only. :)

Now, when I ruminate over the name and its meaning, I realize that I am Swami's child and I should feel very grateful that my parents chose a name that has such a profound meaning. I'm firmly convinced that I must strive to become the perfect offering for Him. As if to resonate my thoughts, a Google search led to this on Wikipedia — Aa means 'towards or to', and 'rati' means 'right or virtue' in Sanskrit. 

It is a well-known practice in Hindu rituals to offer the Aarthi with camphor. There is an inner significance to the use of camphor. Have you noticed that there is no trace left behind when the camphor burns?

"The waving of the camphor flame at the end of the bhajan sessions or any pooja is to remind you that your sensual cravings must be burnt away without leaving any trace behind, and you must offer yourself to God for being merged with His Glory." – Baba

I don't claim to be the perfect offering to God. In fact, most often, I find myself lacking in so many aspects. But, yes, Swami has touched my life and has turned it around. He is slowly but surely transforming me. And I am confident that eventually, He will make me merge in Him.

Although I cannot change the way my name is spelt, I can definitely try to achieve the goal of living up to the phrase 'offering to God'. Just as the camphor burns itself out and is reduced to nothing, I pray to Swami to help me slowly burn away all the vices and desires within me and transform myself from 'Aarthi' to the perfect 'Aarathi', worthy of being offered to Swami.


  1. The fact that you are introspecting and analyzing so many issues shows that you are already in the right path. all the best....

  2. perspective! :)

  3. Well Said. i wish if everyone thinks this way and try to offer them to SWAMI, there will never be a hungry person on this earth.

    1. Hello 'Anonymous', thank you so much for your comment. But it would be lovely to know your name and which part of the world you are from.

  4. I too many a times have wondered the significance of waving the camphor and only after reading Baba's explanation the entire ritual has acquired such a beautiful dimension for me. You just leave with this elevating thought at the end of every bhajan session - I have to burn myself out completely and happily to lighten and brighten other lives. I congratulate your parents for giving you such a nice name :)

    1. My physical mother chose this name for me, knowingly or unknowingly. I believe she just liked the name and so decided she would name me as 'Aarthi'. She may not have delved into the deep inner significance of this name.

      But I'm sure this choice too was willed by Swami. I hope and sincerely pray that I burn out all my desires and become an offering worthy of being given to Swami, my divine mother and father. All that I am and all that I have are His. What else can I offer back to Him? Only myself. :)

    2. Sairam, Swami has chosen this name for you as he knows that you are worthy of it. That perfectly suits you.