Are India’s religious festivals coming to a metaverse near you?

The annual Durga Puja religious festival is the largest in India, drawing up to 250 million people in October for week-long events across the country to celebrate the mother goddess Durga’s victory over evil.

For the Indians who cannot attend the Unesco-listed the Durga Puja festivities in person, made himself available in virtual reality without glasses from a smartphone or computer through the 3D social network known as Spacecourtesy of indian startups xp and land and Metaform.

“We are looking to bring mass cultural events to Web3, and what better way to start than Durga Puja, as it is the largest recurring human gathering in the world.” sukrit singhco-founder of both companies, said Discard In an interview.

He said a user can create an avatar and then enter an online replica of a “pandal,” a temporary physical structure, some built to resemble temples or churches, in dozens of places in India to house the goddess. Pandals are places of worship and a user’s avatar can meet other people present there in their avatars, Singh said.

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In a pilot launch this year, some 20,000 people used the avatars, according to Singh, who said it’s a small start considering the millions who attend real-world Durga Puja. But he argues that this shows there is potential to grow and take advantage of revenue opportunities. That includes non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and advertising, he said.

He notes that a hurdle to his plans is getting stable high-speed internet connectivity at locations in India.

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In West Bengal, the fourth most populous indian State, as much as 40,000 temporary pandales as well as Hindu temples are involved.

The economic value of Durga Puja in the region is estimated at $4.53 billion and accounts for around 2.58% of the state’s GDP, according to a British Council. to study on behalf of the local government.

A Deloitte report estimates the metaverse could add up to $1.4 trillion a year to gross domestic product in Asia by 2035, or up to 2.4% of total GDP.

The report says that the metaverse has the potential to create new markets and businesses, as well as open up employment opportunities. He notes that the governments of China, South Korea, and Japan have included metaverse initiatives in economic planning strategies.

Singh said his pilot program in India was carried out with four Durga Puja organizers this year in the eastern Indian state of West Bengal. Singh said his team created online versions of the four pandals and airdropped 16,000 NFTs of the deity.

Biswa Bangla Gate in Kolkata, West Bengal. Image: Envato Elements

“We liked the idea: the fact that anyone anywhere can visit our pandal,” said Saptarshi Basu, organizing secretary of Ballygunge Cultural Associationone of the four organizers of Durga Puja.

In the future, there should be options for online viewers to purchase souvenirs, photos or artwork, Basu said. “This has a wide reach,” he said, adding that the metaverse approach allows people with health problems or who live too far away to experience Durga Puja online.

One of them was Sagar Chatterjee. “I was not in India in October this year, but I did not want to miss Durga Puja. So I attended in my avatar form, saw the pandal and the decorations,” said the director of Kolkata-based Beezle Fashion. Discard. “It was the best option available at the time,” she said.

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The use of virtual reality settings and avatars for religious worship and community became more acceptable in christian churches during the coronavirus pandemic.

According to one Survey July 2022 By Wunderman Thompson, 85% of Muslims surveyed said they are interested in the metaverse for religious worship.

A devout Hindu. Image: Envato Elements

Singh said it makes sense to bring mass cultural events into the metaverse, adding that he plans to talk to some 300 temples in India about his projects. He said that he plans to have 100 Durga Puja pandals online next year.

“However, it is not easy to convince religious or cultural institutions to carry out this type of experiment. Right now I think we are in the education phase,” he said.

“What will happen in the next few years is that we will live lives in the real world and in the metaworld.”

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