Thousands of Indians living abroad are logging on to religious Web sites in the run-up to the main Hindu festival of Diwali, courtesy of a stream of portals offering services like online praying and blessings.
October 20 marks the beginning of the three-day Hindu festival of light, and some of the millions of Indians living in countries like Britain, the United States and Canada are joining in the celebrations back home electronically.
For prices ranging from $8 to $15, religious portals are offering prayer sessions for IT-savvy devotees at temples in India, sending them a DVD of the prayer and offerings like dried flowers or vermilion, blessed by the priest.
Worshippers can also pick up idols, incense sticks, religious books from these holy Web malls all at the click of a mouse.
"(The number) of people registering online for puja (prayer) during this festival season has surged almost three to four times from the normal days," said Mervyn Jose of Saranam, an India-based site (www.saranam.com).
Around 60 percent of Saranam's clients are living overseas, the majority of whom are Indian IT professionals in their thirties, who are too busy or too distant to get to a temple.