INDIA, September 26, 2016 (by Amrita Verma, The Asian Age): Hindu priests in Allahabad and Varanasi demanded a ban on performing the pind daan, a post-death ritual believed to ensure salvation for departed souls, over the Internet. The pind daan is performed mainly during the Pitra Paksh, a 16-day lunar period during which Hindus pay ritual homage to their ancestors.
Pandit Kishore Upadhyaya, a priest from Varanasi, said that the growing trend of offering online pind daan was "unethical" and should be banned. "The ritual requires the person to be physically present and make offerings to the departed souls. It is an elaborate ritual and cannot be performed in absentia," he said.
According to him, a large number of websites now offer "online tarpan" for a price. These websites are doing big business, but the people are being duped, he said. "We understand that working people are short on time and cannot travel to religious places like Gaya, Allahabad, Varanasi or Haridwar to perform the ritual, but they can opt for the ritual in their own cities. In fact, some religious organisations even arrange for collective pind daan for those who cannot afford to travel," he said.
Another Varanasi priest, Pandit Shiv Misra, said that the idea of online pind daan was "ridiculous," and should be stopped. "This is almost like asking someone else to eat or sleep for you. How can anyone else pray for me? The websites that are offering the 'services' take money and then claim to have performed the rituals for your ancestors," he said.
The priests have decided to take up the matter in the annual Magh Mela that is held in Allahabad in January and ask the Dharam Sansad to convince the government to ban the virtual pind daan services. "We have come to know that a website that offers virtual 'pind daan' in Varanasi, is receiving 200-250 requests every day which means a large number of people are being fleeced," said Pandit Shiv Misra.