Scheduled to be held at Prayagraj (Allahabad) from January 15 to March 4, Kumbh 2019, is expected to attract a footfall of anything between 120 and 140 million devotees. In the bid to bring the younger generation to their doors and keep the faithful connected, religiosity has embraced technology. Even those not physically present can witness the maha explosion of humanity and an equal measure of spirituality at the click of a mouse as the shahi snan will be streamed live at www.kumbh.go.in.
To enable devotees conduct pujas from home, a number of religious portals have mushroomed, promising to “connect with god in one click”.
For someone like Rajini Singh, a software engineer, who moved to the US, this is a godsend. Desperately missing temple visits with her family, she has “attended” every aarti of Mata Vaishno Devi live online. “It helps me feel connected,” she says.
Following suit, more temples across the nation are using technology — big screens, Facebook, Skype — to connect worshipers. Sites like saranam.com, subhpuja.com, epuja.co.in, pujanpujari.com, onlinetemple.com, mypanditg, pujayagna.com, harivara.com and eprarthana.com enable users to pay for a proxy to perform religious rituals at faraway temples, from hundreds of miles away.
The process involves devotees to login, place an “order” for a puja of their choice from a roster of temples, provide relevant details (name, gotra, star alignment and place), make an online payment, and get the blessing shipped to them.
Arun Kumar Somaskandan’s ‘Harivara’ offers a one-stop solution for all religious needs.
Right from relatively basic pujas like Ganapathy homam, Ayushahomam and Grihapravesham to temple services in Chennai, Bengaluru, Hyderabad, United States, United Kingdom, Middle-East and Singapore. “We bring together pandits, pujas and temple services on an online platform. People migrate to new cities and don’t know whom to reach. Our major focus is on rituals. For people abroad, we perform the puja through webcast,” says Arun Kumar.
Shubpuja is another portal which has overseas clients, and conducts pitr puja or ancestor worship. After bookings are made, details are shared via email, the steps explained and the puja is live streamed to the client via Skype. “People are getting their level of privacy through technology. Earlier, they would go to their family pandits for pujas and archanas. With the advent of technology they can login into websites for the same,” says Soumya Vardhan, founder of Shubpuja.
Technology has made life easier for organisers, says Shiva Kumar, founder and executive director of epuja. “We offer access to religious ceremonies and rituals across 3,600 temples in India,” he says. Puja N Pujari, which has a presence in Bengaluru, Chennai, Hyderabad, Texas and US, recognises that modern living comes packed with many priorities and short deadlines. “Finding both pandit and puja material in urban areas is difficult. So we are bringing the devotee’s spiritual needs online by providing knowledgeable pujaris,” says Dr Mahesh Kottapalli, CEO, Puja N Pujari.
The Internet has become a hub of religious worship for millions of people around the world. Christians, Muslims, Hindus, Jews, Buddhists, Sikhs and people of other faiths turn regularly to websites to pray, meditate and gather in “virtual” houses of worship graphically designed to look like the real thing. Some sites offer rites from baptism to confession to conversion to Judaism. The charges range from Rs 1,101 to Rs 70,000, depending on the temple’s popularity.
Can technology replace real-life worship? “Technology is good, in case of emergency,” says Anju Poddar, writer, traveler, art collector and textile expert.