Gods in the machine


Even before India went into lockdown on March 25, 2020, the country began closing its temples. Although organized religion can offer comfort during a crisis, mass gatherings are jet fuel for a plague. Festivals, pilgrimages, and community worship are all based on precisely the kind of socializing that must be stopped to bring Covid-19 under control. Fortunately for quarantined Hindus, an app already existed for accessing the gods.

To every disaster its winners, and though VR Devotee was launched by its parent firm Kalpnik back in 2016, the app’s services are ideally suited to these strange times. For several years, it has featured live streams from multiple holy sites, extensive footage of Hindu festivals gone by, and virtual reality temple experiences. But then, worship cannot be treated like a conference call, and breaking down the walls between technology and religion is a complex task.