Mangala-arati begins some time between 4:00 and 4:30 a.m., when the Deity's curtains are opened and the Pujari blows the conch. Prior to opening the curtain, the Pujari has awakened the Deities, offering them Balya-bhoga of morning paraphernalia, water and milk sweets or other preparations suitable for early morning. The transcendental sound of the conch (shankh) is blown to signal the awakening of the Deities, who appear still dressed in their pajamas, without garlands or jewelry.
While the Pujari is performing Mangala-arati, the devotees offer their obeisances and take up kirtana, which involves a set program of songs. Srila Prabhupada instructed that this kirtana should last no more than 20 to 25 minutes, and there should be little variation in the song selections or the order in which they are sung. Managal-arati may include the following:
Srila Prabhupada Pranati
Sri Sri Gurv-astaka
Hare Krsna Maha-mantra
Sri Nrsimha Pranama
Refrains of the Maha-mantra can be sung as segues between the various prayers, and variations in the tune can be introduced. The Nama Sankirtana song may be included or not, and various tunes can also be used for it. Only the standard tune for Sri Sri Gurv-astaka should be sung, however, since this prayer is for the glorification of the Spiritual Master, and Srila Prabhupada has given us the tune he preferred.
It is our preference to not include the Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati Pranati prayer. While it's true that Srila Prabhupada sang it, Srila Bhaktisiddhanta Sarasvati was his Spiritual Master. Srila Prabhupada did not include a Pranati for Bhaktivinoda Thakur, however. Consequently, it seems more fitting to follow Srila Prabhupada by offering this glorification just to the Spiritual Master, and not to the previous Acaryas.
Kirtana continues while the Pujari is offering Mangala-arati. The Pujari will periodically distribute Deity prasadam in the way of ghee lamp and flower, sprinkling water, offering incense, etc. Details on the Pujari's complete arati program will be included in the Temple Activities section. You can also read about the various arati offerings in the section on Deity Worship at Home.
The Pujari blows the conch to mark the end of Mangala-arati, then closes the curtains. Kirtana should end shortly thereafter. After the arati, while the devotees are chanting japa, having class, and offering Tulasi and Guru-puja, the Pujari is engaged in bathing and dressing the Deities. This Shodasha nitya puja is offered privatly by the pujari in preparation for the Deities' Sringara-arati.
A Pratara-bhoga offering will also be made during the morning, at which time breakfast preparations like fruit, milks, butter, sweets, sugar candy and casein may be provided. Grain dishes are not offered for breakfast, but only for bhoga-arati and at night.