Reprinted from India Abroad News Service.

Now you can get Lord Ganesha's blessings online by offering prayers and paying for the rituals at the click of a button.

The 250-year-old Siddhivinayak temple in central Mumbai is dedicated to the elephant-headed god. Three years ago, it became the first Indian place of worship to go online and has now tied up with ICICI bank to enable devotees to pay online for pujas (prayer rituals).

"All the customer has to do is fill the form stating the puja he wants, and the bank will transfer the specified amount from his account to the Siddhivinayak temple's account," says Anshu Kapoor, executive, ICICI bank, who is overseeing the venture. The prasad (offering blessed by god) will be couriered to devotees after the puja is completed.

The trustees of the temple say the facility will allow devotees living in places other than Mumbai to request pujas and petition the Lord. "The website of the temple, www.siddhivinayak.org, is evolving into a horizontal portal that offers a number of facilities to devotees," says Ashok Nadkarni, a trustee of the temple who helped develop the website. It now offers a wide range of products, like electronic greeting cards and devotional audiocassettes.

"Devotees in places like the Middle East who can't avail of the services of pujaris [priests] download the audios from our site," says Nadkarni.

The temple's website, which attracts 15,000 to 20,000 hits daily, and more than four times that number on auspicious occasions, will be a complete virtual mart in the next few months.

"From this year on, 'Ganesh Chaturthi' cassettes, CDs, idols of Ganesha, and books will be sold through the site," says Nadkarni. Also on the anvil is a co-branded credit card in association with the ICICI Bank. "We are still working on the formalities," says Nadkarni, a website designer.

Nadkarni and his team of three full-time employees are now working on making the content more attractive. "We will offer guidance on 'vaastu shastra' [an ancient Indian art of architecture] and 'aradhana' [ways to appease god]," says Nadkarni.

Another service allows devotees to choose the name of a newborn child via e-mail. On receipt of an e-mail form filled with details of the child's gender and time and place of birth, five names are sent to the parents. Though this service is free of charge, the beneficiaries can donate to the temple using credit cards.

The trustees are also planning a revival of Ganesha worship through the site. Each of the 250 Ganesha temples in the state will be given a homepage on the site. Most Ganesha temples are located in small towns all over the state.

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