More and more NRIs are conducting religious ceremonies with the help of Skype and speaker phones.
It is Amavasya day. Clad in traditional pancha kacham and sitting in the padmasana posture in his California home, Sridhar is all set to perform the monthly tharpanam ritual. On the floor are placed the ceremonial requisites -- the sacred darba grass, black till seeds in a bowl, a silver pot filled with water and large plate. Placed along side is a curious entity – Sridhar’s laptop! And coming online just then on Skype is Madhavan, a young vadhiyar (Vedic pundit) based in Srirangam, in India. Madhavan instructs Sridhar on what to do; ; the prescribed mantras are chanted, which Sridhar dutifully repeats, and lo! the tharpanam is conducted in a strictly traditional manner. The monthly tharpanam is just one of the rituals that are now conducted long-distance with help from vadhiyars. “NRIs contact us regularly to do homams of various kinds, including the Ayushya Homam. We do the homam in their name, with their involvement over a speaker phone or Skype, and later courier the prasadam and send the video or photographs over e-mail,” says Madhavan. In fact, a few Americans have had homams performed on their behalf across cyberspace. Today, not just Madhavan, there are many others who now conduct ceremonies over Skype and on speaker phones for the Tamil community living overseas.
“This does not violate any ritualistic rule. 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,” says Madhavan.
“In fact, it works better than when the ceremony is conducted here because, with the time lag, vadhiyars have more time to devote to the puja,” says S.T. Rangachari, whose U.S.-based son Thirumalai does his annual Aavani Avittam over Skype. The point he makes is that while it is break-of-dawn for an NRI in the U.S, it is evening in India, and vadhiyars have more time to spare as not many pujas are conducted in the evenings.
“Not only are vadhiyars are hard to come by in the countries that we live in, but also the long commute can put a break on the day’s work at the office. So this works well,” says Singapore-based Muralidharan, over e-mail.
With so many of the NRI community now ignited by a passion to hold on to their cultural and religious roots, this curious trend looks set to grow.