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Significance or Meaning of Swaha and Ithi in Sanskrit Mantras

You might have noticed that all mantras begin with the sound of "OM". What you might have ignored or failed to notice that mantras in Sanskrit end with "ithi" or "swaha". Some of you end mantras with just a "namah".

Not to scare you, but if you fail to use "ithi" at end of each mantra or at the very end of any stotra (hymn), the mantra & related offering (sacrifice or prasadam) doesn't reach the god being prayed.

The word "ithi" marks the end of mantra, and urges gods to accept whatever you are offering.

The word "swaha" is used more in havans (rituals were you put offerings/prasad directly into fire). Since people put offerings into fire while saying "swaha", many of us associate it with "destruction". When anyone says "sab kuch swaha ho gaya (everything became swaha)", it does and should not be concluded that he or she lost things. It is a wrong notion that associates "swaha" to ashes (राख).

"Swaha", rather than depicting destruction, is actually a word to tell gods that you have completed that particular mantra. It reminds me of walky talkie. Don't we use the word "over" after each communication when talking on a walky talkie? Same way, "swaha" depicts end of mantra. The purpose of using "ithi" is also same. When you say "ithi (इति)", you send a signal to listeners, including gods, that you've finished saying the mantra.

Some of you leave mantras with "namah (namaste)". It know it sounds stupid but if you dont say "ithi" towards end of mantra, it stays incomplete. If you find it odd to say "ithi" at end of each verse, say it at the end of mantra|stotra.

It's not really needed because gods are intelligent but shashtras (religious books) urge you to use it at least once - towards the end of whatever mantra you are reciting. You may or may not use it - owing to different reasons. Of course, gods know you very well so they wouldn't really mind if you don't say "ithi" or "swaha".

And regarding the beginning of any mantra, we use "OM". I think everyone knows what it means and why people use it. If you want an explanation, I'll discuss "OM" in a separate post. For now, the takeaway is that mantras should be followed by the word "ithi" or "swaha" for the reason explained above. Your questions or counter-arguments are welcome.

~
Arun Kumar

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