Indian online retailer AskMeBazaar.com has been condemned for religious insensitivity by Hindu groups after it recently broadcast a video advertisement on YouTube that depicts a Hindu sage (clergyman) dancing with a scantily-clad woman.
The thirty-second advert depicts an actor dressed as the sage, wearing sacred rudraksha beads and saffron coloured garments associated with religious figureheads of India’s largest faith, levitating over a CGI building buried mostly in the ground while Bollywood actress and ‘item girl‘ Kangana Ranaut is perched on the edge of the building dressed in modern Western clothes, including a short red skirt. As the clip begins, the sage seated in a traditional meditational posture floats towards Ms. Ranaut and asks her why she is so busy. As she peers at the screen of her mobile phone, the actress, who plays the role of a ‘shopping queen’, begins to excitedly talk about the cheap shopping she can do on the AskMeBazaar.com site. The building rises from the ground to show the figure ‘70%’ – an allusion to the savings the company is offering. The clip ends with the sage and Kangana dancing in a comical carefree manner. The bilingual English and Hindi advert, entitled “Kangana Ranaut shops at Deal Guru” was made to promote the Deal Guru service, which aims to help the site’s buyers and sellers maximise their savings.
AskMeBazaar.com is an online shop selling a wide variety of goods for the Indian market, ranging from fashion accessories and jewellery to medicines and footwear, at often heavily discounted prices. Like eBay, the site enables sellers to set up shop and offer customers popular good and designer brands in one centralised location. The site’s information page describes AskMeBazaar.com as “an effort to recreate the great Indian shopping experience online“.
The AskMeBazaar advert has attracted numerous complaints over its portrayal of a Hindu priest.
While many have seen the advert as light-hearted fun, harmlessly exploiting Indian consumers’ passion for shopping and Bollywood movies, religious Hindus have registered complaints with AskMeBazaar’s owner, Noida-based Getit Stores Pvt. Ltd., for offending their religious sentiments in what they perceive as a disrespectful portrayal of a sacred figurehead, and in particular his accompanying a character wearing what many regard as inappropriate clothing. Many Hindu sages are married, but some take vows of austerity and celibacy in order to maintain a close relationship with God and to steer their souls away from earthly illusions and temptations. Many women in India‘s cities have taken to adopting Western-influenced fashions, including the wearing of miniskirts and other ‘revealing’ attire. Many argue that these new modern women are exercising their freedom to wear what they want in an increasingly globalised environment, but opponents say such clothing, often inspired by the raunchy costumes of Bollywood actresses such as Rangana Kanaut, is an affront to general Indian culture, with its emphasis on modesty in dress and actions. The resultant culture clash of two very different cultures in India’s big cities, or ‘metros’ such as Mumbai and Delhi, have seen tensions between secular and religious groups and societies – which have occasionally turned violent.
The protests are being spearheaded by the Hindu Janajagruti Samiti, an organisation campaigning for worldwide Hindu rights. The Samiti also registered a complaint with Getit Stores, who have so far refused to pull the advert offline. A spokesperson for the company denied that any intentional denigration of the Hindu faith was intended, and the advert is still available for viewing, on both the AskMeBazaar site and on their YouTube channel. HJS however insists that the advert is clearly disrespectful of Hindu religion and of its saints and sages, who are held in high esteem by Hindus globally. They pointed out the irony of AskMeBazaar using Hindu religious personalities as figures of comical fun, yet they had no history of using clergy from other religions in India in the same manner. In addition to criticising the company’s perceived intentions in using the dancing sage, the HJS also warned the company that they stood to lose valuable business and customers due to the video.
An HJS activist, Shivaji Vatkar, wrote to the Noida offices of Getit Stores on the 15th August, which is India’s Independence Day. He also called in; where an office worker there denied that the advert was insulting. Vatkar’s letter has yet to be replied to by Getit Stores.
Getit Stores Pvt. Ltd. GYS Heights, Plot 10 and 11, 2nd and 3rd floor, C tower, Sector 125, Noida (Gautam Buddha Nagar), Uttar Pradesh – 201301
Sub:Request to stop the advertisement of Kangana Ranaut shops at Deal Guru- askme bazaar denigratiing Hindu Saint/Saadhu
Hindu Janajagruti Samiti is an NGO doing social, religious and Nation building work. For details please refer our website http://www.hindujagruti.org where we have successfully campaigned and stopped denigrating advertisements.
Thousands of Hindus are customers of askmebazaar.com. We appreciate and buy your quality products. However we have received lot of complaints against you for hurting religious sentiments as you are showing Hindu Sadhu/Saint dancing and singing with a lady for advertising your shopping. Ref Link : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wYupvWgnDVA&feature=youtu.be
As per Hindu religion we should worship and get blessings from Sadhus-Saints. There spiritual teachings and knowledge is highest gift to the world. Due to their culture, sacrifice and Chaitanya millions of people have changed their lives to lead a blissful life. Walmiki, Vashisht, Naarad are some of the examples whom we respect and worship. However you have shown a Hindu Sadhu/Saint in saffron dress & a Kamandlu in hand dancing with a lady with jokes.
Thus there is insult and denigration of our Saints. This is hurting religious sentiments of Hindus which is an offense as per Indian Penal Code section 295A.
Further please note that you will not dare to show Jesus, Mohammad Paigambr, a Moulavi or Father dancing with a lady in your advertisement. You are purposely and intentionally denigrating Hindu Dharma with malafide intentions for which millions of Hindus will protest against you. Many Hindus will boycott your shopping products.
In view of above we earnestly request you to stop the advertisement and give unconditional apology for hurting religious sentiments of Hindus.
( Shivaji Vatkar , Tel : [redacted])
For Hindu Janajagruti Samiti
A reproduction of the protest letter sent by Mr. Vatkar to Getit Stores. The retail company has not yet furnished a reply, according to Hindu religious rights group HJS.
Several companies, big and small, Indian and international, have been condemned by Hindu religious organisations in recent years for producing goods and advertisements that use Hindu symbols in a controversial manner. An American clothes and furnishing retailer was twice complained against after selling clothing items depicting Hindu deities. Several Indian advertisers and Bollywood movies have also been slated for their depiction of gods and goddesses for commercial gain.
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“Ask me bazaar.com remains adamant against HJS’ appeal to stop Hindu sage’s denigration !” – Hindu Janajagruti Samiti (21 August 2014) http://www.hindujagruti.org/news/20389.html
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