For the last three years, SmartPuja has had a steady demand for its apps which connects consumers to priests along with required material to perform religious ceremonies at home and offices. But with the nationwide lockdown in place, the Bengaluru-based startup has had to change its model altogether. And it’s just one way that Indians are continuing to connect with their spiritual selves in this crisis situation.
As priests and pundits are not allowed to move from one place to another, SmartPuja has suffered massively. Founder and CEO Nishchay Chaturvedi told Inc42 that the lockdown has come during the Navratri season, which is a peak time for SmartPuja’s business. Up to 90% of SmartPuja bookings have been postponed, and many of them cancelled due to the time-sensitivity of certain ceremonies.
But as everything moves online, SmartPuja also launched ‘ePuja’, an online ceremony feature connecting clients and priests via video conference. “While priests conduct the ceremony at one end, clients coordinate with them from the other end,” Chaturvedi added.
Temples Go Online In Pandemic
The internet has become the new town square for Indians with offices, schools, colleges and public places out of bounds. More Indians have used online platforms to buy groceries and medicines in these times than ever before. The internet ecosystem has come as a saviour for many who have yet to adjust fully to the new reality.
Besides virtual ceremonies for homes, many temples, mosques and churches in India are also allowing worshippers to connect with deities online. For instance, Patna’s renowned Mahavir Temple has also instructed its devotees to stay at their homes and take blessings from the deity by paying an online visit.
Besides the online visit, the temple has also launched an online platform to order religious offerings from the temple without any additional costs involved. Secretary of Patna Mahavir Temple Trust Committee Kishore Kunal said that the temple is open but people are requested to stay at home. The temple authorities have also covered all the bells inside the temple with clothes to prevent people from touching it.
Spirituality In A Virtual World
With so much pressure on individuals to stay safe amid the coronavirus pandemic, there’s an increased need for people to connect with deities and spiritual leaders. But with temples out of the picture, the only way for many to achieve this is through digital means.
In Himachal Pradesh, the government has closed all state-run temples and is asking the devotees to visit the temple online. Similarly, in many states, temple authorities have temporarily locked down the premises and have launched an online platform to help people continue their visits.
Also, Goa-based St Francis Xavier Church is now also live-streaming religious processions so that people can stay attend these events at the comfort of their homes and keeping themselves safe from the coronavirus pandemic. Besides India, a temple in Abu Dhabi which has been temporarily shut down is also holding online satsangs every Friday.
SmartPuja had launched ePuja for international clients, but given the situation in the country, it has now decided to make it available domestically as well. So far, it has conducted Hindu religious ceremonies such as Satyanarayan katha and naming ceremonies for clients in Bengaluru.
Smartpuja is also performing some ceremonies that are aimed to bring positivity in their lives. “Hearing those chants can bring positivity in the mundane lives of the people which is now restricted to two-three homes amid lockdown,” Chaturvedi said.
As of now, SmartPuja has maintained the same prices for online and regular ceremonies, but it is planning to lower the prices for online ceremonies since it can accommodate multiple customers at the same time. Chaturvedi believes that given the constraints, virtual ceremonies are going to be the way forward for the next few weeks.