Selling Temples -- A How-to

Disclaimer: All characters appearing in this work are divine. Any resemblance to real or divine persons, living or dead, is purely intentional.

A few days back, a couple of friends and I were discussing, how anything sells in India and how opening a restaurant is seemingly an easy way to make some quick bucks. But, now, I have a much better plan to make some big money, may be not so quickly, but definitely a lot more – at least by an order of magnitude.

Religion! Nothing sells like it, in the land of snake charmers! People will buy anything on offer. This post gives the recipe for turning a small temple in a god forsaken town, into a big place of worship that "attracts" devotees from all over the country, if not the world!

The first task would be to zero-in on a temple. But before that, let's define the kind of town we are interested in. Ideally, the town should be within a couple of hundred kilometers away from a city with good transport connectivity and a population at around one and a half million (There are about 20 such cities, in the country). The temple in question could piggy back on the fame of a temple nearby, if it is within about 50 kilometers of a really famous temple, but in that case, our temple would remain the second preference, for a very long time to come. But this is much easier to accomplish and arguably a quicker buck. Ideally, though, we'd prefer a location, which doesn't have any other famous temples in the radius of about 300 kms (roughly 5-6 hours by road). It also helps if the travel to the temple for the big city is through the country side, giving a glimpse of the country side that urban Indians can only dream of connecting, the life that was once lived by their parents and grandparents, but they now only get to see in the movies. This will help us score some points with the "educated and sophisticated" urban populace.

Now, the temple. It should be the biggest or the only one in town, though having smaller temples around helps in knitting more tales around the temple. The temple in question should be one, that the locals have tremendous faith in. You should be able to find at least a dozen people who vouch for the miraculous power of the gods in there, without trying too hard. That should be good enough, to get you going, and I believe this isn't too hard for any random temple, anywhere in the country.

The gods. It really doesn't matter who the god is. He/she could either be a generalist or a specialist and that would influence the type of crowds coming in. Your god can be as specialized as you like, up to the extent of specializing in blessing people get visas to the US. Now, your god can either be an already well known god, or a not so well known incarnation of a well known god, or a new person who is soon to become god! The first type is a hard bet; the third option is somewhat high risk too, and you'll really need to put your mind to it, to make it work. The second option is the easiest one. It always helps to have some real objects and places that can be associated with the god, and are living proof that the god once lived here and used those things. It really helps if you can give the devotees the feeling that they are doing all the things that the god in question once used to do, at the same places he/she used to do it. Type-3 gods would work well for this.

Spread the word. This, obviously, is the most important part and the hardest one too. It's best to start with the word of mouth. Start with family and friends and friends of friends and friends of friends of friends (read as facebook-only-friends). Pick the more religious of the lot, encourage them to visit the place, write and share blog posts/tweets/pictures/tales/stories and whatever else, with them. Encourage them to interact with the locals. I don't think it would be necessary to make any deals with the locals. They are smart enough, wherever you go! You need to actively market your god, until a critical mass of happy devotees, has been reached. A critical mass is reached, when there are more people talking of their wishes coming true, than there are people who are still waiting for their wishes to come true. This should be too hard given that, religious people tend to believe that whatever happens, happens for the best and god has better plans for them, than their own. Slowly, you could coax one of the better writers (who is also religious?) into writing a book or two about your temple. A couple of years after selling your book, you should try and encourage one of the big TV houses to make a teleserial based on the book, and that would be it! Now, you can sit back and relax.

While getting all of the above right is important, it is also super important to work out things with the current priest, form a temple trust, and manage other such things and to time all of it perfectly. This part of the plan is left as an exercise for the reader.

On the whole, this is a much more fruitful exercise than setting up a restaurant, since this helps a whole economy grow around the temple. A whole bunch of things crop up, near our small town. Transportation grows by leaps and bounds, hospitals and schools grow with the population, the local vendors start earning more and get a better quality of life, and all that jazz. I guess, you get the drift.

Change & Free flow

No. Not the Obama change. I'm talking of change as in small denominations of cash. Everybody is reluctant to part with it. There's always a problem with getting it. I'm often worried before getting into a bus or an auto, or going to a shop whether or not the guy would give me change for a 50, 100 or a 500. People so reluctant to "part" with it. What are they saving it for?

I think the situation would be much better if people readily gave it, when required. There would be a free flow and if not anything more, I wouldn't have to worry about it when going somewhere. But, I "feel" this would actually reduce the instances when both the parties don't have enough change with them. What do you think?