Published October 4, 2012 | 5:34 am
Kolkata: Welcome to the world of electronic Durga Puja.Click and the lamps light up. Drag the cursor and the garland moves towards the deity. Click on the bells and they ring.
Bengalis living outside Bengal and India love these e-Puja. As such, many websites are offering the virtual experience of paying obeisance to goddess Durga.
“We are trying to reach out to people who are unable to participate in the festivities because of old age or disabilities or on account of being abroad,” says Saikat Sengupta of UtsavLive.com.
Durga Puja, one of the biggest annual festivals in eastern India, marks the victory of good over evil, with the slaying of demon Mahishasura by goddess Durga. The four-day festival this year starts Oct 21.
Seven days before the festival, the goddess is beckoned to descend on earth through an invocation called the Mahalaya relayed on radio and telecast on TV. Now the recitation has moved to the cyber space too.
“We streamed Mahalaya live in collaboration with Washington Bangla Radio last year. This year, we plan to do live streaming of rituals such as ‘anjali’ (offerings to the deity), ‘arati’ (greeting the deity) and ‘sindoor khela’ (married women smearing vermillion on each other),” Sengupta told IANS.
On similar lines operates Bangalinet.com. With the tagline ‘Home away from home’, it has a large following in India and abroad.
“We introduced beats of the ‘dhak’ (drums) for the first time online,” Sukanta Chatterjee, who runs the website, told IANS.
The site also has an interactive e-Puja presentation, where devotees can offer flowers, light lamps, play dhak, and do aarti, all virtually.
Another site, Theholidayspot.com, is dedicated to celebrating all major events, holidays and festivals.
“One can type his or her name and ‘gotra’ (caste) and get puja performed and collect virtual ‘prasad’,” said Surjendu Ghanty, who runs the site.
These websites also offer e-calendars, lessons in Bengali language, Facebook greetings, Durga Puja recipes and fashion and routes to the ‘pandals’.
“Puja does not always mean rituals. People of other religious beliefs also participate in the festival. When we see white cotton-like clouds in the blue sky, we get the feel of puja. With UtsavLive.com, we’re trying to communicate this sentiment to the visitors,” said Sengupta.
“Actual rituals are elaborate, virtual ones are a fraction of that. But users can still get a feel of the celebrations via links,” said Ghanty, whose website sees a lot of visitors from Britain and the US.
Durga Puja also sees musicians, painters, poets and writers come together. And the internet ensures participation.
“If you look at our Durga Puja Articles section, you’ll find a lot of quality work. Children, especially those abroad, can read about Indian society in these articles. Our website is meant for everybody, not just Bengalis,” says Chatterjee of Bengalinet.com.
“Our recipe section has many popular Bengali dishes,” he said.
Sengupta of Utsavlive.com says visitors’ participation in the site is crucial in making the experience enriching.
“By accepting submission of pictures, recipes, writings and songs, we are trying to build a complete Puja flavour online,” he said.
A change in cultures, religious practices and people’s perception have ensured these websites’ success.
“People all over the world from diverse beliefs use our portals,” said Chatterjee.