Technology has caught up with priests as well. A number of priests use digital services and social networking websites to perform prayers or pujas for Indians residing abroad.
Families contact priests in the country through the web and seek their services on auspicious occasions or for remedies to various problems. They perform yagnas, Vedic ceremonies and even preside over marriages, especially those of the Indian diaspora.
“A number of Indian families, especially those living in the US and European countries, reach out to us through Facebook and other websites and ask us to perform pujas. We go online via Skype and perform the rituals from India,” Raghunat Shastri, priest of a temple in South City 1, said.
The remuneration is transferred to the priest’s bank account and the puja prasad is sent to the family via courier. The fee varies from ceremony to ceremony — a Shani Sade Sati Yagna (worship of planet Saturn) could cost around `10,000, whereas a Santaan Gopal Yagna (worship of Lord Krishna) might cost as much as Rs 1 lakh.
A few priests have even formed groups and launched websites offering their services. Some of them have even rented small offices with arrangements similar to a call centre.
“I work for an astrological website which offers all kinds of astrological and healing services through the internet. We have also rented a small office in Sector 32, Gurgaon, where priests perform pujas,” JN Pandey, a priest associated with a website, said.
The services of the priests are booked for festivals like Diwali and some websites even offer attractive discounts for performing yagnas.
“We have already started getting bookings for pujas on Diwali. We are offering good discounts to attract more families,” Pandey said.
Some families said such services were not easily available in foreign countries and they were able to perform pujas properly through the internet .
New York resident Shakuntala Whadwa said, “We got to know about such services only last year. We have already booked a priest for Diwali puja. This has helped us feel like we are still very close to our roots. The entire family sits together and it has helped my grandchildren understand our culture and traditions.”
Akanksha Singh, who resides in Singapore, said, “It is a great idea. I was born and brought up outside India. Such services help us in understanding our culture and heritage.”