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With devotees out, time for Gods to go online?
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With devotees a no-show, it may be time for temple rituals to go digital
BENGALURU: With temples continuing to remain locked down, a new normal to connect to God is on the anvil, darshans in temples are set to go virtual, while prasada and teertha (holy water) will be couriered to the faithful.

The Karnataka government has decided to live stream prayer and other services at temples across the state from May 27. Devotees will have to make payments online.
Kota Srinivas Poojary, minister for Hindu religious institutions and charitable endowments, told TOI that in the first phase, 50 temples will provide such online services. They include prominent ones like Banashankari temple in Bengaluru, Nanjundeshwara temple in Nanjangud, Chamundeshwari temple in Mysuru and Subramanyeshwara temple in Kukke Subramanya.
About 15-20 religious services will be provided online, Poojary said. Along with these services, the minister said plans are on to livestream special pujas on YouTube, Facebook and other digital mediums.
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About 34,500 temples are administered by the department of Hindu religious institutions. Poojary said their revenue has been almost nil since the lockdown kicked in. Revenue is in the form of donations to hundis (donation boxes) and to temples. The revenue goes to authorities of respective temples and is used for their development.
A man watches the livestreaming of a prayer session from Vaishno Devi, during nationwide lockdown in Jammu (Photo: AFP)
A man watches the livestreaming of a prayer session from Vaishno Devi, during nationwide lockdown in Jammu (Photo: AFP)
“Temples have lost 40% of annual revenue because of the lockdown. We consulted heads of temples who agreed to the online plan. Chief minister BS Yediyurappa will launch the programme,” Poojary said.

How the idea came about

The idea was proposed by Rohini Sindhuri, who was deputy commissioner of Hassan district when the Mahamastakabhisheka was held at Shravanabelagola in 2018. The festival, which draws people from across the globe, was livestreamed. Minister Kota Srinivas Poojary, who was already flooded with phone calls from devotees demanding temples be reopened and sevas and pujas conducted, quickly latched on to the idea.

Way forward

A mobile application and portal will be hosted to register sevas

Payments for pujas and services to be made online

Devotees will get an SMS on day and timing of puja

Puja will be livestreamed and devotees can watch


The minister said that even if the lockdown is lifted, revenue is likely to remain low since many people may not visit due to social distancing norms and fear of infection. Commissioner of the department Rohini Sindhuri said they are planning to launch a mobile application where devotees can access or choose temples and services and make payment for desired services.
For many others, an organised online method to collect donation in order to sustain themselves is a far cry.
Ecosystem of temple towns in tatters
DEHRADUN/ AGRA: Shivang Kaushik, a priest in Haridwar, often chooses to go hungry than stand in line for ration kits. "I was earning a dignified living until the lockdown bought all religious activities to a halt. Now there are no devotees in temples and no donations. It's embarrassing for me to be seen standing in queues for food," said Kaushik.
With no religious gatherings, pundits and others associated with temples in towns are fast running out of savings
With no religious gatherings, pundits and others associated with temples in towns are fast running out of savings
Like Kaushik, priests in twin cities of Haridwar, Rishikesh and other holy towns like Vrindavan and Mathura who depend on yajmaans for their income are in dire straits. Similar is the case with sellers of flowers and other puja items who run small establishments around temples. Ajay Mittal, who runs a shop at Kokilavan Shani temple in Mathura, told TOI that since temples have closed, thousands in the town who were engaged in making garlands, prasad, chandan tika etc have been rendered jobless.
Kalicharan, a garland seller in Mathura, is borrowing ration from a local shopkeeper to feed his family. “I have been selling garlands for deities at Kali Devi Mandir in Sadar Bazar for over two decades and make about Rs 7,000 per month, but I have not earned anything for two months. What is being done for people like me?” asked the 55-year-old.
There are no devotees at most temples across the country
There are no devotees at most temples across the country
Pilgrims make up a large chunk of tourists that flock to ‘Dev Bhoomi’ Uttarakhand every year, especially during the summer months when popular Char Dham shrines in mountainous regions open to devotees. According to government records, the four shrines have approximately 5,000 priests who depend on the yatra season (May to November) for their income. The priests at Char Dham shrines have already sought support from the government.
Appeals for help have come from other quarters too. In Mathura, Mahant Acharya Ram Krishna Shastri of Prachin Sidh Sri Durga Devi Mandir, said priests survive on cash donations, clothes or grain for prayers and religious activities they conduct. “But we have no work right now and no idea how long this will continue,” he said.
World's richest temple trust can't pay salaries
TIRUPATI: It is not just about size of temples, as even the world's richest temple trust is unable to pay its employees. Tirumala Tirupati Devasthanams (TTD), which runs the Sri Venkateswara temple at Tirumala, recently said it has lost Rs 400 crore of revenue during the lockdown and has not been able to to pay salaries and meet daily expenses.
The officials said that the trust has already spent nearly Rs 300 crore towards salaries, pensions, and other fixed expenses and is deliberating on ways to resolve the crisis “without having to touch” its eight tonnes of gold reserve and Rs 14,000 crore fixed deposits.
Tirupati, the richest temple in the world has been unable to pay its employees
Tirupati, the richest temple in the world has been unable to pay its employees
TTD’s payout for human resources for 2020-21 is pegged at Rs 1,385.09 crore. It has to shell out about Rs 120 crore every month for salaries and pensions. It also has to extend financial support in the form of grants to the tune of Rs 400 crore to healthcare institutions run by it.
Photo Credit: Amit Sharma, Anindya Chattopadhyay
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