Festivals have always been a special and important part of the Indian culture, not only for its rituals, traditions, and the different customs but also for its bonhomie and togetherness. But nothing compares to the essence that Puja holds in the hearts of the Indian.
.The Unmistakable Splendour of the Modern Community Pujas
The community pujas of today are the origin of the concept of pandal hopping. Talking about Sarbajanin or Community Pujas, there are certain things that make it a much awaited annual affair during the different poojas in different part of the country.
These are the typical Pujas that are based on innovative themes and come with huge budgets with celebrities and eminent personalities to glorify the whole affair even more. One might feel that the modern community Pujas is more commercialized than ever. With competitions and cash prizes being organized nowadays, these communities are always trying to grab the limelight with awe-inspiring designs, idols, and themes. As a result, they are hugely successful in pulling the crowd towards them and making headlines in the daily newspapers.
Community pujas are worth experiencing, for they have truly become an affair that is larger than life. You might even consider them to be a very modern take of the otherwise traditional festival.
But, there are few pujas that have still been able to hold onto the tradition, in spite of the race for being bigger, better and grabbing more awards than its competitors.
Community pujas are an opportunity for the artisans to showcase their brilliant craftsmanship to the public eye. Sponsorship is a big factor, and community or social pujas are incomplete without hoardings of the advertisements of these sponsors.
Digital Devotional spirit
Devotional Hinduisim has been quick to use technology in its pursuit of spirituality, with worshippers staying safe at home while performing their rituals in sync with a global community of devotees. To see these practices as being separate from the political project of consolidating the nation on religious lines would be a mistake.
Once the coronavirus recedes into history, we will remember the pandemic of 2020 as ushering in a new era of digital darshans of virtual gods that stream in through Microsoft Windows more readily than through the temple doors.
God and the Internet
Digital darshans and online pujas have been an integral part of the story of the Internet in India: political as well as devotional Hinduism found a home on the Internet from the moment it made its public debut. As the Internet evolved and deepened its reach, it carried hard Hindutva trolls as well as soft Hindu gods, godmen, and gurus into the deeper reaches of the public sphere.
Even before the pandemic, Hindus living in India or abroad could have pujas performed remotely for a fee, worship their chosen gods digitally on their smartphones or watch live webcasts of pujas in historic temples. Hinduism was already flourishing online in the BC (Before the Coronavirus) times.
The nearly two-months-long virus-induced lockdown, however, has brought about a noticeable jump in the number of temples that live-stream and offer online pujas—a trend facilitated by temple management boards, promoted by State governments and powered by e-commerce platforms that specialise in the lucrative puja/spirituality segment. The lockdown also created ideal conditions for the emergence of pandits-on-Skype who can conduct rituals without having to visit the yajmans’ homes.
If the trend continues, reaching for your laptop or your smartphone will become as “natural” for offering pujas as it already is for hailing a cab or ordering groceries. If the trend continues, the digital “haves” will get their religion delivered at home, or book VIP darshans online, rather than suffer the unwashed masses flocking at the houses of worship. It is not that temples will become irrelevant, but they will become optional.