January 2, 2023
By Anjali Kochhar
The annual UNESCO-listed Durga Puja religious festival of this year was made available in goggles-free virtual reality from a smartphone or computer through the 3D social network known as Spatial, courtesy of Indian start-ups XP&Dland and Metaform.
“We’re looking at bringing mass cultural events to Web3, and what better way to start than Durga Puja since it is the largest recurring human gathering in the world,” Sukrit Singh, a co-founder of both companies, told Forkast in an interview.
He said a user could create an avatar and then enter an online replica of a “pandal” – a temporary physical structure, some built to resemble temples or churches, at scores of locations in India to house the goddess.
In a pilot launch this year, about 20,000 people used the avatars, according to Singh, who said it’s a small start considering the millions who attend the real-world Durga Puja. But he argues this shows there is potential to grow and tap revenue opportunities. That includes non-fungible tokens (NFTs) and advertising, he said.
The economic value of the Durga Puja in the region is estimated at US$4.53 billion. It accounts for about 2.58% of the state GDP, according to a British Council study on behalf of the local government.
A Deloitte report estimates the metaverse could add as much as US$1.4 trillion a year to gross domestic product across Asia by 2035, or as much as 2.4% of overall GDP.
The report says the metaverse has the potential to create new marketplaces and businesses as well as open up employment opportunities.
Singh said his India pilot program ran with four Durga Puja organisers 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.
Using virtual reality settings and avatars for religious worship and community became more acceptable in Christian churches during the coronavirus pandemic.
According to a July 2022 survey by Wunderman Thompson, 85% of Muslims respondents said they are interested in the metaverse for religious worship.
“What’s going to happen over the next couple of years is that we will be living lives in the real world as well as in the meta world.”
About the author
Anjali Kochhar covers cryptocurrency stories in India as well as globally. Having been in the field of media and journalism for over three years now, she has developed a sharp news sense and works hard to present information that goes beyond the obvious. She is an avid reader and loves writing on a wide range of subjects.