Friday, October 21, 2011

Community on a Worldwide Spectrum for Hindus

Nowadays, there are several different avenues for worshiping online within the Hindu faith. Today I want to focus on a specific online community known as the Prārthanā: Online Hindu Temple Services. Prārthanā is an online interactive website that allows Hindus to express their faith in different ways concerning worship and prayer. Their “Hindu philosophy advocates two paths, one of Bhakti (that of devotion), and the other of Gnana (that of wisdom)” (http://www.prarthana.com/).

This online tool of worship and prayer creates the ability for Hindus to supplement their regular worship with that of a worldwide attraction. For example, within the website it allows visitors to send poojas (a specific type of worship that involves an offering) to temples around the world, which can give a Hindu a stronger spiritual existence since many of these temples are either out of reach or inaccessible due to worldly restraints like expenses and available time. The ability to virtually worship creates an online community for the Hindu population. In other words, they are given opportunities to connect with other Hindus across the world that can conduct their specific poojas, allowing them to unite in their faith worldwide. Another option that is offered on the website is the ability to virtually tour a temple, referred to on the website as “Temple Darshan.” Here, Hindus are able to navigate through a temple and attempt to experience a more 3-Dimensional worship on a 2-Dimensional scale. This shows the creator’s attempt to create a more realistic and lifelike spiritual practice on the worldwide web. These examples strengthen the argument that Hinduism will not only allow but use the digital world as a platform to strengthening one’s faith and religious beliefs.

In a case study done by Tim Hutchings called Considering Religious Community through Online Churches; Hutchings describes the uses of two Christian online resources called St. Pixels and Church Online. Here, Hutchings goes into detail about community and how it is portrayed in both sites. They both offer online chatting and messaging. This is something that is absent in the Prārthanā online experience. The Prārthanā website does not offer areas of intercommunication. This may appear to be lacking in the idea of community, however, I personally believe that the website wants to build relationships on a more global scale so that the main priority of the website can be the actual faith rather than relationship building through social networking or online chatting. Like mentioned earlier, the Prārthanā’s take on “community” is one that is on a global scale, and not limited to that of immediate and close-nit relationships. Their focus on their faith is what strengthens their online practice because they do not have distracting elements that can potentially take away from the main message.

Hutchings, Tim. (Unknown date). Considering Religious Community through Online Churches, HUMlab: Umea University.
Prārthanā. (2000). Website, http://www.prarthana.com/

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