Bengaluru: The Karnataka government has decided to allow temples in the state to live stream pujas and other rituals and deliver religious offerings, such as prasad and theertha (holy water), to devotees.
State Minister for Religious Endowment Kota Srinivas Poojary told The Print that the decision has been taken due to an increasing demand from devotees to allow them to offer prayers in temples.
As all religious institutions have been shut during the lockdown, Poojary said the best way to cater to the needs of the devout was to allow them to watch or partake in temple proceedings online.
“I keep getting requests from devotees saying they want to conduct pujas. The lockdown does not allow devotees to go to a temple. So we came up with the idea of asking temple administrations to use their online presence to attract devotees to book their sevas online as well as livestream some of the temple pujas,” Poojary told ThePrint.
“The offerings — prasad and theertha (holy water) — will be couriered to the devotees’ doorstep,” he added.
Karnataka plans to officially launch this service on 27 May, and in the first phase 50 major temples across the state will be allowed to provide these services.
The state has 34,500 temples but the administrations of all major temples, including the Kollur Mookambika in Udupi, Banashankari temple in Bengaluru, Nanjundeshwara temple in Nanjangud, Chamundeshwari temple in Mysuru and Subramanyeshwara temple in Kukke Subramanya near Mangaluru, have been requested to set up web cameras to help the devotees participate in the pujas on a daily basis.
“There are a few temples that do not allow video shooting of the puja within the sanctum. We will respect that,” Poojary said. “But at other places we will provide the infrastructure that will help devotees connect with God.”
Temples can get devotees to pay for services
The state has decided to allow temples to collect payment from devotees for their religious services as according to Poojary, the lockdown has brought down annual temple revenues by 40 per cent.
Poojary added that while the state does get some revenue from temples, most of the money is used to develop the premises, pay temple employees and provide prasad for devotees.
“Revenue for temples is earned through donations to hundis (donation boxes). On an average, the state earns between Rs 8-14 crore annually from hundi collections. During the lockdown we have not earned a penny,” Poojary said.
“Temple employees have to be paid. Several temple workers who survive on people’s donations have been struggling to get a square meal. We have provided for them for now.”
The idea to live stream pujas was mooted by Rohini Sindhuri, an IAS officer holding charge as the commissioner of Hindu Religious and Charitable Endowment Department.
She was earlier the deputy commissioner of Hassan district where she had managed arrangements for the famous Mahamastakabhisheka, a Jain festival held once in 12 years.
During the event, she had allowed live-streaming of the ritual.
“Online sevas exist, but at this time, live streaming will also be helpful for devotees,” Sindhuri told ThePrint.