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Accepted Paper:

‘Onlife’ Religious Experiences: Emerging Hindu Religiosity in Gaya, India  
Anand Ranjan (The University of Edinburgh) Sristi Mondal (Indian Institute of Technology (IIT) Delhi, New Delhi, India)

Paper short abstract:

The paper examines the link between Hinduism and digital technology within the context of rising ethnonationalism in India.

Paper long abstract:

The paper examines the link between Hinduism and digital technology within the context of rising ethnonationalism in India. Drawing on the idea of ‘Onlife’ (Floridi, 2014) experience, it explores whether the intersection of online and offline spaces (onlife) promotes inclusion and recognition of the previously silenced and marginalised voices (such as Dalit [untouchable caste as classified by the Government of India], LGBTQIA+, Female) within Hinduism. In digital space, online and offline religious spheres constantly integrate and create a new combined experience called ‘onlife’. The fluidity and flexibility of digital space encourage diverse voices in Hinduism, which were once excluded and marginalised by the Brahmanical (priestly caste) privileges and caste hierarchy (Balaji, 2017). It facilitates access to religious activities for socially excluded and marginalised Hindus. The onlife experience of Hinduism accelerated during the COVID-19 pandemic due to the curtailment of physical interaction, which led to an increase in innovative ways of religious engagement like e-Satsang (spiritual discourse or sacred gathering), e-prayer, etc.

The merging of the religious landscape with the political nationalist agenda has transformed the significance of a place from a pilgrimage site to a religiopolitical centre. Through the lens of the Gaya pilgrimage using qualitative method, this study explores the evolving nature of Hindu pilgrimage surrounding the rise of Hindu nationalist politics (Hindutva); and how the digital Hindutva (Hindu nationalists) activists build and maintain the momentum of Hindu nationalist ideology in onlife spaces.

Panel P036
Digital ethnography and experiences from the Global South
  Session 1