(Now, we can do this on a virtual mode – picture source: www.blonnet.com)
Well, in this internet savvy age, it was bound to happen at some point or later but I probably discovered this a bit late. I was reading a BBC’s post titled “India’s youth hit the web to worship” and it was indeed amusing.
Mahesh Mohanan set up saranam.com, a website which sells religious services, in 1999. For a fee ranging from $4 to $300, Indians can perform virtual complex religious ceremonies in any temple in the country. “People just log in, go through our services and place an order,” says Mohanan. “We have a network of priests, we call them franchisees. They go out and perform the ceremony.”
Virtual prayers – well, this is something new. Well Mahesh may not be the only offering services on Hinduism online, I have come across many other websites which have similar services (mostly on astrology) although Mahesh claims in his website that Saranam which was started in 1999 is the world’s first Hindu pooja service.
A simple prayer services for Lord Shiva in a temple in Chennai will cost me about RM19.37 (yes, Saranam offers multiple exchange rate as well) or Rs233. Praying to Lord Ganesh will cost me another Rs105. The list of other deities are provided on the webpage and all I need to do is to tick and untick the type of prayers that I want (very similar to the tick and untick that I did when I was ordering my Dell notebook). So, how will I know whether the prayers were done after I have paid upfront for the services? This is what Saranam is offering in return:-
1. Puja Ticket – Usually a puja ticket will be sent to you, but sometimes, a receipt is given in the temple, that bears your name is also sent to you. This again depends on the temple.
2. Prasad – This may be Vibuthi, Kumkum, Chandan or Turmeric – this depends on the temple that you choose.
3. Flowers – Some temples give only flowers (Tulsi leaves) as prasad. In such cases, that is sent to you.
Shipping charges however may be a high for shipping the above – it cost about Rs1,342.24 (or RM111.57) but it is still a huge saver compared to you taking up a flight to India, spending thousands of ringgit on hotel, transportation, tour guide and food. There is a free of charge shipping option as well but it is not clear how this will work (unless the shipping charges have been factored in the pooja services charges).You may not get the same atmosphere but in a fast world, it saves time and money.
Of course, you can take the alternative by going to pray at the nearest temple or simply at home. But imagine if there was a similar service was offered in Malaysia? We can look for spending less hard earned money on arbitrarily increased toll, parking and fuel.
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