10 September 2012

Internet gurus and Skype pujas

In a previous post, I had written about websites which offer the possibility of doing pujas online. Recently I read in the paper about how online technology is making summoning the gods much easier. Forget doing your morning puja online via cute websites. The latest trend is doing pujas ‘live’ with a real Hindu priest, direct over the Internet via Skype.

The technology offered by Skype has taken Internet communication to a new level. With a camera and mike, you can not only speak to, but also see your interlocutor. You can even have video conference calls with several people at once

I’ve heard of Skype being used by teachers of Indian classical music. These tech savvy vidwans teach their students sitting in Dubai, Washington or London across a computer screen. This takes guru-shisya parampara to a new, modern-day level. I wonder if shisyas prostate in front of the screen to symbolically touch their Internet guru’s feet after each lesson.

The article in The Hindu describes Sridhar, a California-based NRI, who is getting ready for a puja across Skype. Sridhar is decked out in traditional garb and sitting in front of his computer along with all the required puja paraphernalia assembled around him. Sacred darba grass? Check. Black sesame seeds in a bowl? Check. Silver pot filled with water? Check. Large plate? Check. Everything is available in California, na?! At the appointed time, the priest in Srirangam, Tamil Nadu connects to Skype on his laptop and appears on Sridhar’s screen in his California living room. He chants the necessary mantras which Sridhar is asked to repeat them.

I love the photograph accompanying the article. It shows a computer screenshot of a young priest sporting the Thenkalai Iyengar caste mark on his forehead and dressed in customary priest attire. He’s also wearing headphones with an integrated mike. You can tell he’s in India because a typical Indian ‘almirah’ is to his right and behind him you see one of the plastic mirrors you find above sinks all over India. In the right-hand corner, you see a much smaller image of Sridhar the NRI, piously holding his palms together in prayer. (Unfortunately the photo above which accompanied the article has been cropped so you don’t see Sridhar!).

In the article, the priest maintains that this high-tech puja is not diluted by a laptop screen. “This does not violate any ritualistic rule,” he says. “In any case, the effect of homams is always carried across to the intended recipient through vibrations, so it works even when the person is far away. It is all a matter of faith and belief,” he concludes, demonstrating that holy intentions are more important than the medium used to attain them.

You call read the article here.

(Photo: The Hindu)


Balaji Venugopal said...

I am a regular follower of your blog and I find most of your posts very interesting. I missed reading the article when it appeared in The Hindu, but perhaps that was a good thing. It made reading this post very enjoyable.

Guruvardhan said...

Awesome blog you have here... really interesting... to see my city in this way... and ur choice of words is cool too... :)

Isabel said...

Thanks Balaji and Guruvardhan for stopping by for a look through my window and leaving such encouraging comments.