Discover more from The India Notes 🇮🇳
Sri Mandir UX Audit
Designing an online temple
My parents run a Puja store specialising in providing all the essential items for Hindu rituals. As with many small business, there was no clear distinction between our home and the store. There were countless miniature statues of Hindu deities present throughout our living space. It almost felt like living inside a temple. These idols not only occupied physical space but also played a significant role in shaping our daily lives. I have lost count of the number of times my mom has attributed my success to a spiritual divine intervention. At the height of this was when my father vowed to break 100 coconuts for Lord Ganesha if I got into the Science stream in 11th grade. There is science, there is religion, and there is my father. I used to find my father's behaviour amusing as a teenager, but I find it more intriguing as I've grown older.
I've realised that when living in an environment where resources are scarce, rationality takes a backseat, and one requires hope, which religion provides. For many individuals, being religious is not a choice but a way of life.
WTH is Spiritual tech?
The term "spiritual tech," which was likely coined by a VC, refers to startups that develop applications in the realm of faith, religion, or spirituality. A recent report suggests that India's spiritual and religious market is worth a whopping $54 billion as of 2022 and is expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 10% until 2028. If that number is hard to wrap your head around, consider this: in 2019, nearly 240 million people attended the Kumbh Mela over the course of 49 days.
For those of you in Gen Z who may not know, the Kumbh Mela is like a real-life YouTube video that garnered 240 million views in just 49 days. Despite advances in science and technology, people are still drawn to spirituality and religion, and the market for spiritual tech is only expected to continue growing in the years to come.
What is Sri Mandir app?
Imagine the bustling energy of a temple, the devout whispering prayers, the soft glow of aarti flames, and the mystic murmurings of horoscope predictions - all bundled up in your pocket. That's Sri Mandir for you, a digital sanctuary that's more than just an 'online temple'. Crafted by the parent company ‘Apps for Bharat’, Sri Mandir isn't just about digitizing faith; it's about personalizing it. It entices practitioners of Hinduism with a suite of features.
Here is what their App store description has to say
“Sri Mandir provides its devotees with a free and user-friendly platform to worship their Gods and Goddesses directly from their phone anytime, anywhere. The app also lets you set up a beautiful temple on your phone with just a few clicks.”
(The total funds raised earlier were mentioned as $23.5 M, which is incorrect; I have updated the same. Apologies)
Build your own temple.
According to the Vedas in Hinduism, there are 33 distinct types of Gods, but each God encompasses multiple variations. Each individual connects with a specific variation of their chosen God. For instance, in Tamilnadu, the idols predominantly crafted from granite are worshipped, while marble idols are more common in the northern part of the country.
Sri Mandir comprehends this intricacy and provides an opportunity for devotees (Sri Mandir users) to construct their personalized virtual temple, selecting their beloved deity.
The app also allows devotees to schedule alarm to play shlokas at a specific time.
Change language = Change culture
In most cases, when apps offer language customization, they primarily focus on translating the text from one language to another. However, language is intricately tied to culture, and it is more meaningful to customize the content rather than simply changing the language.
Sri Mandir takes this into consideration by providing customized deities as you switch languages. This means that the selection of deities visible in your shrine when using the app in Hindi would differ from the deities you would see when using it in Gujarati. This personalized approach enhances the user experience and allows for a deeper connection.
Punya Mudra - The divine currency
Move over CRED coins. The new coolest currency on the internet is Punya Mudra. Allow me to explain. Punya Mudras are a form of spiritual currency that devotees can earn by performing specific actions on the app. These actions include daily app visits, conducting pujas (rituals), offering flowers, and even playing the shank (a conch shell trumpet) as an act of devotion. The Punya Mudras you accumulate are stored in your very own Punya Mudra wallet.
In addition, the app keeps track of your streak for daily temple visits.
Consistently visiting your virtual temple will reward you with Bhakti Charas, a measure of your devotion. The more dedicated and regular a devotee you are, the higher your level of Bhakti Chara becomes
It appears that Punya Mudra has garnered quite a following among the devotees of this app, capturing their enthusiasm and interest.
Here are some Google Play reviews about the Punya Mudras
समस्या का समाधान नहीं किया गया .. 29 & 30 December,2022 ki Punya Mudra nahi mili aur yahan kisi bhi problem ko solve nahi kiya jata hai.. Mai 2021 se Sri Mandir ke sath hoon.. Daily Mandir me aati hoon. Fir meri Punya Mudra aur Din ki गणना galat kyon dikhate hain
The problem was not resolved.. I did not receive the Punya Mudra for 29 & 30 December, 2022 and no problem is solved here.. I have been associated with Sri Mandir since 2021.. I come to the temple daily. Then why are my Punya Mudra and day count shown incorrectly?
Unbelievable!! what you did it!! Amazing🙏 proud of all team members.. Serving our Dharma in a different way with modern technology. Me and my family completely in love with Shree Mandir and place digital mandir in our mobile phone. We also doing worship timely. Punya mudra concept really Majedar☺️
Sri Mandir keeps a ledger of all the Punya Mudras earned through different activities called the (spiritual) Passbook.
Offerings to God
The Sri Mandir app provides devotees the unique opportunity to make virtual and physical offerings to their cherished Gods. Through the virtual realm, devotees can perform various acts of devotion such as offering flowers, blowing the shank (conch shell), conducting the arti ritual, and even adorning their virtual temples with decorations.
However, the app doesn't limit the experience to the virtual realm alone; it goes a step further by enabling devotees to send tangible offerings to the temples of their choice within the app.
Digital apps primarily engage our visual senses, but they seldom harness the power of sound. Think about the familiar sounds we encounter while using various apps, such as the CRED slot machine's jingle, the approval tone on My Gate; the notification sounds on Slack or even the melodious Mac boot-up music. These sounds have become an integral part of our app experiences. Check out this video for full video experience.
Sri Mandir takes this concept a step further by utilizing audio as a medium to create immersive spiritual experiences. Each time you open the app, you are greeted with the sound of temple bells, accompanied by a subtle animation of the bells swaying. This audiovisual combination sets the tone for a sacred atmosphere.
Moreover, the shrine within the app features an audio player, allowing you to choose and play relevant bhajans (devotional songs) for your chosen deities. The app also provides a media library where you can explore a wide selection of spiritual songs thoughtfully categorized for different deities. This audio-centric approach enhances the overall spiritual journey within the Sri Mandir app, offering devotees a multisensory experience that goes beyond visual stimulation.
Customised WhatsApp messages
It was no surprise to find a WhatsApp button featured prominently on almost every screen, urging devotees to share their activities on the app with their loved ones. However, what truly stood out was the attention to detail in customizing the message based on the specific context of each screen.
For instance, the WhatsApp button near the temple conveyed a distinct message compared to the WhatsApp button found in music library. The app took into account the unique context of each screen and tailored the messaging accordingly, providing a more personalized and meaningful sharing experience. Here are a few examples that we discovered within the app, showcasing this thoughtful customization.
Sri Mandir also offers virtual Puja services, allowing devotees to partake in rituals conducted by experienced Pujaris who can be booked online. These virtual Puja services, along with the option to make offerings (chadava), are the primary revenue sources for Sri Mandir.
Sri Mandir provides a wide array of services that can be overwhelming to keep track of. Here's a brief overview of the diverse range of offerings available within Sri Mandir.
So how big is Sri Mandir?
The love Sri Mandir gets from their devotees is unbelievable and it’s fascinating how quickly the app has become a part of people’s lives. I pulled some exciting reviews from the play store.
Bahut achha laga hindi me apne itni achhi application banai h bas achhe pandit ji jo sahi direction de sake aisi seva aur mil jaye to maza aa jayega kyoki market me bahut se log lootne ke liye baithe h bas
It feels great to have made such a good application in Hindi, just need good pandit ji who can guide in the right direction, if such service is available then it will be fun because there are many people in the market who are just sitting to loot.
अद्भुत अनूठा अकल्पनीय आनंद ,, बहुत ही सराहनीय ऐप है एक जगह पर ही इतना कुछ, की पर जाकर ढूंढने की जरूरत नही,, आनंद आ गया,,बहुत सुंदर,, प्रभु कृपा रखे,, ओर आप इसे और बेहतर बनाए और फ्री रखे विज्ञापन के बगैर
Wonderful, unique, unimaginable joy, it is a very commendable app that has everything in one place, there is no need to go and search for anything else, the joy has come, very beautiful, may God bless it, and may you make it even better and keep it free without advertisements.
Any time while at home or outside the home,,I can feel myself at temple and can chanting chalisa and Bhajan with this app.I can worship using flowers,counch and garland .This app really makes me happy.
If you think Sri Mandir is only for elders, here is a review from mostly likely a GenZ’s feature request on Sri Mandir app.
Very nice app I love it very nice all bhajan arti mantar chalisa jay all god Thank you for good app you make in this app I request you make game all so durga Kali hanuman ji ganesh ji fight game but real god.
As someone who has consistently emphasized the importance of designing culturally relevant user interfaces, it brings me immense pleasure to witness an app that takes a fresh and innovative approach to design by applying first principles thinking.
Despite the progress made in the field of science, it is challenging to separate religious beliefs from society. The innate human need for hope remains a fundamental aspect of our existence, albeit taking various forms as times change. This reflection reminds me of a poignant quote from Rama Bijapukar's book, "We are like that only," which beautifully captures this sentiment.
‘our faith in astrology does not decrease as a result of the rising levels of our scientific education; rather, as a consequence, we effortlessly move to computerized horoscope casting!’
Have a great day!
Credits: Visualisations by Adyasha Padhy