Srila Prabhupada gave ISKCON the arotik ceremony to use in its temples. Pretty much we just took it for granted and accepted it because it was given by him. Although in numerous places he talks about its importance, I have never noticed in any of his major writings where he talks about the ceremony itself, and what is happening in it.

Anyway, I am sure there are all sorts of levels of things going on, but here is one angle of vision. I was noticing that, symbolically, there is a very definite pattern to how the ritual unfolds. First, the pujari blows the conch shell, generating sound. Sound travels thru ether (sky). Then, like in many Earth culture ceremonies, there is smudging with incense, which travels thru air. Next, fire is offered, and what happens when we burn air? We get H2O, water, which is offered in a second conch shell. So what we are witnessing is the process of creation unfolding as described in the Second Canto. Sound, ether, air, fire, water, and when they are all present, earth manifests, and the variegatedness of the earth in its various products are then presented: cloth, flower, the yak tail and peacock fan.

So what we are seeing in the arotik is the process of creation; that process and all it’s manifestations then being offered back to the Supreme Creator who is the Ultimate Source of Creation. All the living entities are involved – the two legged by the pujari, the four legged by the yak, the six legged by the silk, the winged ones by the peacock fan, the aquatics by the conch shell, the standing people by the flower, the stone people by the metal arotik paraphernalia, and the reptiles by arguably the five headed fire breathing cobra as some say the 5 ghee wick holder represents, but at minimum the entirety of the paraphernalia used being Ananta Sesa. The conch shell being shaped in a helix, and two conch shells being used, we are also seeing the double helix of DNA, the underlying source codes for the unfolding of all the variegatedness.

“Because the sky is transformed, the air is generated with the quality of touch, and by previous succession the air is also full of sound and the basic principles of duration of life: sense perception, mental power and bodily strength. When the air is transformed in course of time and nature’s course, fire is generated, taking shape with the sense of touch and sound. Since fire is also transformed, there is a manifestation of water, full of juice and taste. As previously, it also has form and touch and is also full of sound. And water, being transformed from all variegatedness on earth, appears odorous and, as previously, becomes qualitatively full of juice, touch, sound and form respectively.”

The whole process of creation is an act of gradual evolution and development from one element to another, reaching up to the variegatedness of the earth as so many trees, plants, mountains, rivers, reptiles, birds, animals and varieties of human beings.”

SB 2.5.26-29