It looks like a normal enough Pandal. The statue of Ganesha is clad in shimmering gold and silver, religious songs blare in the background, and a lit flame performs the ceremonial circular motions around the deity. But the flame isn’t being moved by the hand of a venerable old pandit — it’s being moved by a hunk of wire and metal.
Pune-based Patil Automotive Pvt. Limited has a unique take on its Ganesh Pandal this year. Instead of having a Pandit perform the aarti, it’s being done by one of its own robotic arms. The arm twists and moves in strange directions, but the flame is held aloft in perfect circular motion around the idol. It’s not quite clear if this automated aarti is mandated by the gods, but the robotic arm is adorned with a few flowers on its wrist in a bid to make it look appropriately religious.
Ganesh pandals are an opportunity for pandal creators to be creative, and technology is often incorporated into the themes. When cellphones first became ubiquitous, it was common to see Ganeshas holding them up; robotic arms performing puja is perhaps a sign of the times. The arm also ties in well with Patil Automotive’s core business — the company supplies assembly line and robotic machinery to brands such as Bajaj, Honda and Tata, and their pandal becomes as much of a tribute to Ganesha as a demonstration of their own capabilities.
And in some sense, the pandal is also an indication of how fast automation technology is becoming mainstream. IT companies across India are laying off engineers because their jobs are now being performed by software programs, marketers are being replaced by programmatic ads, and BPO workers are being replaced by chatbots. And if this pandal is anything to go by, it looks like no one is safe from the inexorable march of technology — not even pandits.