Worship From Home: A Glimpse Into The Metaverse Temple Experience

Worship From Home: A Glimpse Into The Metaverse Temple Experience

A couple of months ago, ISKCON Dwarka Delhi temple launched a virtual temple visit experience using the digital world's new technology metaverse for the first time

Anjali KochharUpdated: Monday, March 18, 2024, 06:01 PM IST
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Renowned for its spiritual and cultural heritage, India attracts millions of pilgrims and tourists from all over the world every year. Whether it is the beautiful evening Aarti on the banks of the Ganga River at Varanasi or the soulful Sufi vibes at the Ajmer Sharif in Rajasthan, these places represent the diverse religious traditions and practices that have flourished in the country for centuries. What if, there comes a time shortly when all these iconic spiritual places in India can be visited from wherever a person is, without the need to travel miles to visit them? Well, seems like some spiritual and some technologically inclined people have already indulged in this discussion and are now coming up with the concepts of temples in the metaverse–a virtual reality space where users can interact with computer-generated environments and other users in real-time.

A couple of months ago, ISKCON Dwarka Delhi temple launched a virtual temple visit experience using the digital world's new technology metaverse for the first time. You can now have the darshan of Shri Shri Rukmini Dwarakadheesh from the convenience of your home, transcending the world even beyond the internet. All you have to do is visit the metaverse of ISKCON Dwarka, select your avatar, understand certain controls to enter the temple metaverse, and just experience the feel of the ISKCON temple sitting at your home.

Shri Gaur Prabhu, the senior manager of ISKCON, Dwarka, mentions that now more than 80 countries’ devotees connected to the centre can do the darshan at home, visit the book centre, contribute and support the centre through donations, and perform various services to the Lord. “Currently, a limited version has been launched, and gradually, there will be an opportunity to connect with many detailed dimensions in it,” he said.

As spirituality is going the digital way, a tech startup VOSMOS, which has its metaverse, is also looking forward to offering users a virtual temple experience that blends technology and spirituality. The project, which is at an initial stage, would provide 360-degree temple tours, basic activity tracking, auto walk and idol-focused landing, interactive ritual participation, seamless booking and donations and user ID implementation, told the CEO Piyush Gupta.

VOSMOS has created a thorough 360-degree walkthrough that gives a tour and highlights the features of the temple. After the walkthrough loads, a walk or navigate function quickly brings visitors to the focus point, placing them in front of the designated idol inside the temple. Customers and users can worship the idols through interactive features including ‘prasad animations’, ‘flower showers’, and ‘aarti’.

Another platform MetaGod Creators, securing the phase 1 mandate for Vrindavan Chandrodaya Mandir Trust, plans to launch a metaverse platform for the temple's south wing. This initiative includes digital fundraising, influencer marketing, and immersive digital activities using VR and AR. It also involves media buying for ad spaces at iconic global locations.

The benefits

Darshan in your comfort: The metaverse temple tours aim to provide the feel of the physical temples in a virtual world. Regardless of your age or your medical condition, you can easily do the darshan of God in your comfort. Mamta Mathur, a mother and teacher from Jharkhand, says, “After the age of 40, various illnesses start affecting the body, but the mind doesn't age as quickly. There's a desire to visit the four sacred places. Connect these journeys to your life journey. When boundaries are considered, online pilgrimage emerges as an excellent option, ensuring not only a safe and healthy journey but also protection from various risks. So, my 60-year-olds, "Don't stop the movement of your body but let the pace and energy of your mind flow, let it resonate." Shri Gaur Prabhu also mentioned that the metaverse of ISKCON Dwarka has garnered special interest from devotees living overseas.

Puja from home: ISKCON Dwarka launched the metaverse on the special occasion of Janmashtami this year, allowing thousands of devotees to immerse in the experience of darshan, Aarti, and donation at the comfort of your home. All these services are still available at the metaverse of the temple with additional services on their way. Vivek Sharma, 56, an ISKCON devotee says, “It has been a pleasure visiting the temple metaverse of ISKCON and performing services to God at home. On days, we feel like visiting the temple but lack the time and energy, this metaverse gives us the desired comfort at home.”

Environmental friendly: It's true that the large number of people visiting temples and other religious sites in India, especially from all over the world, can contribute to carbon footprints. The carbon footprint associated with travel arises from the transportation methods used, including flights, vehicles, and other modes of transportation. The metaverse temple tours can help in cutting down these carbon footprints. “It significantly reduces the carbon footprint by eliminating the need for physical travel to religious sites, thereby contributing to an eco-friendlier approach to religious ceremonies. This practice minimizes transportation-related emissions and conserves resources that would otherwise be utilized for travel,” says Gupta.

GenZ loves it

Well, whether or not you or I would understand the concept with ease, Generation Z has been all hearts for visiting temples in the metaverse. Razi Ahmed, a Gurugram-based working professional, says, “The idea of visiting famous religious places in the metaverse itself sounds very fascinating. If we imagine being able to explore intricate architecture, witness traditional ceremonies, and even interact with virtual representations of historical artefacts, it all sounds relaxing yet exciting being experiencing it from the comfort of our own space.”

What’s missing?

Sukoon of temple: Akshara Gurbani, a working professional in the Influencer Marketing Industry, believes that the teerth yatra or the feeling of being at the holy place is something unparallel to what we can have in metaverse. “People visit such places because of the aura and the positive vibe there. The feeling of belongingness before God, the experience of ringing bells, the bhakti and shraddha that people have. Those vibrations that are there when you ring a bell at a temple cannot be compared to something that we create in the metaverse." ‎Disha Popli, an ISKCON devotee and a teacher, shared her experience of visiting the temple metaverse. “While I felt a sense of awe at the digital rendition’s faithfulness to the real counterpart, the ambience lacked the tangible serenity that I associate with visiting the physical ISKCON Dwarka. The metaverse experience couldn’t replicate the subtle fragrance of incense or the soothing resonance of devotional chants.”

No real-life connections: Another ISKCON devotee who recently visited the temple metaverse felt that the interaction with fellow avatar devotees was not as seamless as she expected. “The facilities like the auditorium and guest room had fewer people and it would be better if they had more people and the experience was somewhat more interactive,” said Mathur.

Prasad distribution: Many devotees who truly found the temple tour experience engaging found that virtual tours couldn’t get them the real-time prasadam they visit the temples from far-away places. The ‘animation prasad’ couldn’t excite many devotees. Ankit Choudhary, 28, Delhi, says, “I am a gamer and understand metaverse from way before. However, the feel of temple darshan is not what I want to do in the metaverse. I mean where do you get that peace in the metaverse? Or how do you get prasadam there? Animation can’t match the real feel and touch.”

What’s next?

As of now, the concept of temple tours in the metaverse is at its early stages, however, it seems like in the years to come, metaverse temple tour is expected to become a thing for devotees. The upcoming year is expected to see many temples coming up with the concept of metaverse and God will be available for all in a parallel universe which they can experience in real-time.  

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