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Mobile Apps Put Durga Puja at the Fingertips of Millions

Durga Puja, the annual Hindu festival that involves worship of the Goddess Durga, who symbolizes power and the triumph of good over evil in Hindu mythology. Image by Luit Chaliha. Copyright Demotix (27/9/2014)

Durga Puja, the annual Hindu festival that involves worship of the Goddess Durga, who symbolizes power and the triumph of good over evil in Hindu mythology. Image by Luit Chaliha. Copyright Demotix (27/9/2014)

During Durga Puja, an annual Hindu festival in West Bengal and other parts of India and Bangladesh, worshippers erect elaborate makeshift structures called pandals. Inside each of these structures, there is a stage on which a statue of the Goddess Durga mounts a lion while wielding ten weapons in her ten hands. The pandals depict Durga's victory over the evil buffalo demon Mahishasura. Afterwards, Durga is invited to visit her maternal home and there is an invocation by “Mahalaya” (chanting and singing devotional songs). Goddess Durga then visits home and Bengalis celebrate, worship, and enjoy the five days of Durga Puja. (Read more about this legend here.)

The highlight of the Puja festivities is viewing the many different displays of Goddess Durga, each of which has a unique theme. “Pandal hopping” has become a part of the popular culture, and people sometimes visit hundreds of pandals in large cities like Kolkata. During the week of Durga Puja, life comes to a complete standstill, as roadblocks, traffic management, and fun-fare to the sound of drums chants and devotional songs take over.

This year, there are several mobile apps available to make pandal hopping better planned and more informed than ever. Indians’ growing tech savviness has brought mobile computing to new spheres of life. Apps that help navigate religious and cultural festivities are now at the fingertips of millions in India.

In this article, Global Voices look at some of the mobile apps related to the Puja festivities. The apps fall into four basic categories:

1. Virtual Puja-hopping experience:

Blogger Agnivo Niyogi writes about the Android App Durga Puja Parikrama:

The lights, pandals, chaos on the streets, hyper-active Kolkata Police, food, and above all the spirit of togetherness – these define Durga Puja in the truest of terms. Sadly, for Probashis (and Bengal-lovers who cannot visit Kolkata during Pujo) often give this opportunity a miss because of the physical distance. [..]

The interactive Durga Puja app will help you to:

-Find out location and other details of Durga Puja Pandals around
-Check ratings and comments by other users
-Check the pictures of the Durga Puja pandal uploaded by other visitors.
-Search Durga Puja pandal by popularity or traditionally well-known.
-Create a wishlist of pandals
-Share which Durga Puja pandals you have visited on social network.
-Upload your picture, make your comment or rate a Durga Puja Pandal you visited.
-Get important news and updates from Kolkata Police and West Bengal Government.

Durgotsava Puja Parikrama is a similar app offering map-navigation features and GPS-tracking to aid users in Puja hopping. It also provides information about nearby services like cash machines, public transport, restaurants, medical services, and so on. Puja Hoppers is another such app.

Durga Puja Pandal Hopper also allows users to add their own pandal information and maintain a travel budget.

Another app in this group is The Puja App, which offers 360-degree interactive virtual tours of pandals. Users can vote for their favourite pandals. Virtual tours are only available for older pujas from before 2013, the app also offers a map with some of the current puja locations.

Bengali House wifes play "Sindur Khala" on the last day of the Durga Puja festival at Kolkata in India. Image by Reporter #7585286. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2014)

Bengali House wifes play “Sindur Khala” on the last day of the Durga Puja festival at Kolkata in India. Image by Reporter #7585286. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2014)

2. Puja-related updates:

The Big Green Durga app is an initiative from 92.7 BIG FM Kolkata, a radio channel, which describes it as the perfect way to get around congested streets:

The app is a great utility as during puja this will be your news channel on all the Roads that are blocked, all the awarded Pujas you must see and all the celebrities who are visiting different Puja Pandals so that you can have a real glimpse of them. The data will be live and updated by 92.7 BIG FM Kolkata.

Durga Puja is another app in this group. It educates users about Durga Puja, the importance of each day of the celebration, the legends therein, how puja is performed, what is required for each day, and the datse and proper puja timings according to the Hindu calendar. The Durga Puja Organiser apps, as the name implies, help worshippers plan their puja celebrations.

The Navratri Durga Puja Sangrah app has a collection of puja-related songs, aarti, and mantra (prayers) in both audio and video formats, which can be performed when making puja offerings.

3. Puja locators:

These apps help users find all the nearby pujas.

Available on iOS and Android, Puja Locator was not designed specifically for Durga pujas. It was made for pujas held in the Maharashtra region. Mandapp provides information about the various puja pandals in Kolkata.

Kolkata Puja Guide and Map makes it easy for people to find a route to select puja pandals. Durga Puja RoadMap 2014 is a similar app with navigation features.

4. Virtual Puja offerings:

These apps allow users to offer virtual pooja (prayers) to Maa Durga Devi. Maa Durga Pooja offers a complete pooja experience to users. Durga Pooja is another app which lets you to worship the lord goddesses through aarti and garland.

There are undoubtedly many other useful apps out there for the Puja festivities. If you know of any not mentioned here, GV invites you to mention it in the comments below this post.

One of the idols of Devi Durga is ready for immersion on the Ganga river in Kolkata. Image by Suman Mitra. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2013)

One of the idols of Devi Durga is ready for immersion on the Ganga river in Kolkata. Image by Suman Mitra. Copyright Demotix (14/10/2013)

The Durga Puja ends by immersing Maa Durga's idol in water and chanting “asche bochor abar hobe” (It will happen again next year). Thanks to the the growing supply of Durga Puja apps, however, worshippers don't have to wait a whole year anymore. The virtual experience of Durga Puja is forever at the fingertips of anyone who wants it.

Aparna Ray contributed to this post.

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