Bengaluru: The coronavirus and the lockdown restrictions to curb its spread have hit the “business” of Gods across the world. In the southern Indian states, where religious and spiritual tourism is a billion-dollar industry, even the most powerful temples are struggling to stay afloat.
From offering online darshan of deities to selling laddus and lamps at discounts, the temples are opting for innovative ideas to survive the pandemic.
The Karnataka government is living up to its image of the tech state by introducing online darshan of gods and goddesses. The Endowment and Charities ministry known as Muzrai, which controls over 30,000 temples in the state, has come out with online Poojas to help both the priests and devotees in the time of crisis.
According to Muzrai minister Kota Srinivasa Poojary, the state government is planning to provide such facilities by the end of this month. Initially, only some major temples will go online via Facebook and their respective websites. The devotees can pre-book a pooja by paying a fixed amount. They can, in fact, avail 15 kinds of special poojas by paying money for each kind or can even go for a bulk booking, he said.
In the first phase, the Chamundeshwari temple in Mysore, Banashankari temple in Bengaluru, Kukke Subramanya in Dakshina Kannada, Kollur Mukambika in Udupi, Saundatti Yellamma in Belgaum, Yediyuru Siddalingeshwara in Tumkur and a few more temples will go online, the minister informed.
The state government has already released Rs 34 crore to pay salaries of the priests at about 30,000 state-run temples. The priests, who survive on daily offers made by the devotees in cash and kind, are urging the government to open the temples at the earliest.
There are over 50,000 private run temples in Karnataka. The financial condition of the priests at these temples is said to be in a precarious state with all religious activities and weddings have come to a total halt.
In the neighbouring Andhra Pradesh, Tirupati, the world’s richest Hindu temple and the second richest after the Vatican, is struggling to pay salaries to its employees and priests as it has been shut for two months.
The TTD, which runs the temple, has now started selling its famous ‘prasadam laddu’ at 50 per cent discount in Tirupati, Chennai, Hyderabad and Bengaluru to earn some spare cash to manage the affairs of the God. Each Laddu is now being sold for Rs 25.
Over 50,000 people visit Tirupati every day. The temple was never shut for two months in its over 1,500-year-old history, claim the locals.
In Kerala, the Travancore Dewaswom Board, which controls over 1,000 temples in the southern part of the state, has decided to earn some money by selling bronze lamps of the temple.