A photo taken of the murti of Lord Ganesh at the Sarvajanik Ganesh Utsav Mandal festival located in Love Lane, Mazgaon, Mumbai. Devotees of God as Ganesh are getting ready for the 10-day Ganesh Chaturthi festival which commences on the 24th August 2017.
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London – VIJAY SHAH via ANDREW GRIFFIN and The Independent
Scientists are studying footage shot by the Chimbo Foundation and PanAf of strange behaviour by a group of African chimpanzees, which they may think indicate the chimps are performing rituals, which may indicate belief in a religion, according to Britain’s The Independent newspaper, and first reported last year (2016).
The footage shows chimps in a forest clearing in an unnamed part of West Africa, carrying stones and arranging them in little ‘cairns’. Mainly though, the chimps, including a mother carrying her baby, are seen hurling rocks against the bases of certain wide-bottomed trees, while screeching loudly. Other apes have been seen throwing smaller rocks into holes in the trees, creating deposits of material. It is surmised that this unusual behaviour, which has only so far been among this West African band of chimps, could be the beginnings of ritual behaviour. The participation of the mother and younger apes means the stone-throwing is highly unlikely to be mating behaviour, and the throwing does not also point to territorial marking.
Scientists studying the apes say their strange activities can give an insight into early human rituals and religious beliefs. Ancient humans constructed cairns and other rock formations as part of nature worship, one of the most famous and advanced examples being the UK’s Stonehenge monument. Chimps and other great apes have already shown the kind of intelligence associated with humans, for example in using sticks as tools to extract grubs and ants. Yet the stone-throwing in West Africa does not fulfill a functional purpose, such as finding food.
The researchers, whose institution was not mentioned in the Independent report, but described in the video above as being from Germany’s Max Planck Institute of Evolutionary Biology, wrote in their report abstracts on the chimp rituals: “This represents the first record of repeated observations of individual chimpanzees exhibiting stone tool use for a purpose other than extractive foraging at what appear to be targeted trees,”
“The ritualized (sic) behavioural display and collection of artefacts at particular locations observed in chimpanzee accumulative stone throwing may have implications for the inferences that can be drawn from archaeological stone assemblages and the origins of ritual sites”
Interestingly, the scientists also found in their research that people in West Africa who follow traditional religions also enact similar rituals involving the construction of cairns at sacred trees.
In a piece written around the findings, researcher Laura Kehoe described the experience of watching the chimp look around and then fling a rock at the tree trunk.
“Nothing like this had been seen before and it gave me goose bumps,” she wrote.
“Marking pathways and territories with signposts such as piles of rocks is an important step in human history,” wrote Kehoe. “Figuring out where chimps’ territories are in relation to rock throwing sites could give us insights into whether this is the case here.”
“This Could Be First-Ever Observed Ritual Practice Among Chimpanzees” – Hjalmar Kuehl and team/Scientific Reports/MPI-EVA/PanAf/Chimbo Foundation/GeoBeats News, YouTube (1 March 2016) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iEQOThqq2pk
Here’s a little something that I posted on Facebook way back in August 2011 (five years ago). To give you some context first, at that time riots and widespread looting was happening across the UK. The riots first started in my city, London, after a man was shot dead by police in questionable circumstances. The riots soon spread to other major cities. I posted this as a tongue-in-cheek joke and was not intended as a slur against any age or religious group.
It is the Lord’s Prayer reimagined for the rioting classes, and here we have…. the Looter’s Prayer. May the (police) force be with you!
The Looters Prayer
Our father who art in prison, my mum knows not his name. Thy rioting done, you’ll read in the Sun, in Birmingham as it is in London. Give us this day our welfare bread & forgive us for looting, as we forgive those who give Asbos against us.
…Lead us not into employment but deliver us free housing,
for thine is the petrol bomb, the plunder & all it’s glories,
forever & ever,..
If you visit the 800-year-old Hindu temple complex of Angkor Wat in Cambodia, you will be immediately be taken aback by the immense building and intricate carvings of deities and old Khmer kings of was once one of the most powerful and expansive empires in south-east Asia. However take a closer look, and you will notice something very peculiar among the images of soldiers, local wildlife, royalty and apsaras (sacred nymphs).
On one of the walls of the main temple at Ta Prohm, there is a carving of a lizard-like creature, stockily-built and four-legged with a series of small sails running along its back. To many modern observers, it resembles a stegosaurus, a herbivorous dinosaur that lived during the late Jurassic period, some 155 to 150 million years ago in what is now the western United States and Portugal. Eight centuries later, it would be impossible to interview the carver of the main temple wall with its prehistoric embellishment, but this may be a sign that the ancient Khmer Hindus knew of the existence of dinosaurs, which were not fully understood in Europe until the archaeological discovery of dinosaur fossils that began in the 19th century. It is possible that they may have unearthed a dinosaur skeleton while constructing the temple and figured out what kind of dinosaur it was, before carving its supposed likeness into the temple wall of Ta Prohm as a sort of homage.
The story of the Khmer stone dinosaur has been noticed by various scientific, obscure discovery and religious websites, including Hawkfeed, which specialises in Indian and Hindu news stories and features and is the source for this article. The dinosaur has also attracted attention across the religious divide from Biblical proponents.
The Angkor Wat temple complex was built around 1140 CE by the emperor Suryavarman II and dedicated to Lord Vishnu. The Khmer people has previously come into with Indian traders who introduced them to Hinduism. The temple was also built as a show of imperial strength as the Khmer empire was making inroads against the neighbouring Thais. The Ta Prohm temple, where the carving is said to be found, was built by later king Jayavarman VII sometime in the late 12th century. The complex eventually fell into disrepair and was swallowed up by the surrounding jungle until, ironically, French archaeologists rediscovered it and it is now the world’s largest surviving religious monument and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Yet, at least judging by the mysterious stegosaurus carving, the Khmers may have themselves possessed advanced archaeological knowledge at the time.
While many have cited this as evidence that the ancients were far more advanced in scientific understanding than they are usually given credit for, and some Christian creationists have clung onto the idea that the Angkor Wat stegosaurus is proof that humanity and dinosaurs co-existed, therefore invalidating the theory of evolution, opponents say that in fact the stegosaurus is probably more likely a depiction of a rhinoceros or a chameleon with exaggerated features. A report by the Smithsonian Institute suggests that if viewed head-on, the carving does not appear prehistoric at all. As the report itself states “The head is large and appears to have large ears and a horn. The “plates” along the back more closely resemble leaves, and the sculpture is a better match for a boar or rhinoceros against a leafy background.” Leaves are a common motif as a background design on many of Angkor Wat’s stone carvings.
The Smithsonian also suggests that the carving may be have been added much more recently, perhaps by a visiting film crew or a local artisan with a strange sense of humour. Others have compared the carving to a baby Asian rhino or a local species of mountain lizard which both bear a strong resemblance to the carving. Nevertheless, the temple has become a source of pride for Cambodians, Hindus and humanity the world over, regardless of whether it was a stegosaurus on that wall or not.
US rapper and master of lyrical poetry Sullee J returns to the mic again to release the latest single from his upcoming mixtape Victory. The new track is entitled “Deen over Dunya” and was produced by AnnoDominiBeats. His latest track is dedicated to the role that his Islamic faith plays in his life. Just as many mainstream rappers past and present referred to ‘Jesus Peace’ and Biblical phrases in their wordplay, Sullee J’s latest single is a statement of his faith’s guiding hand in his life, career, and messages, delivered in his unmistakable flow. Sullee also touches on the history of Islam, a religion that shares many of its prophets and beliefs with other Abrahamic faiths such as the Christianity that has inspired and strengthened many of his fellow musicians in hip-hop.
Sullee J raps about what being a Muslim means to him as he negotiates and stands above a tough and dark world, a world which often successfully lures in other musicians into the wrong path. The song title says it all. ‘Deen’ means religion in Arabic, while ‘dunya’ means ‘the world’ or ‘worldly things’ in not only Arabic, but also Hindi, Turkish and Urdu. It is Sullee J’s statement for his faith being of more importance than worldly comforts, because the dunya is in his words, a ‘bad deception’. The flyer for the new single drives that message deeper and further as a cartoonified Sullee J straddles the boundaries between the heavenly skies of ‘jannat’ and the tormentous hellfire of ‘jahannam’. Deen over Dunya could well be a defining moment in the new world of American Muslim rap.
“In all sincerity, this is written for your clarity,
This is not a fiction, this is truth for your disparity”
This Saturday marks the Hindu New Year V.S. 2072. This new year’s day is most keenly celebrated in north India and Nepal, although some peoples such as the Gujaratis, Tamils and Bengalis mark their new year’s on a different date. This new year also marks the beginning of spring and the agricultural season in the northern parts of the Asian subcontinent. It also marks the beginning of the nine-day festival of Navratri, in honour of Goddess Durga.
“The Hindu New Year 2072 or Vikram Nav Varsh Samvant,is celebrated on Chaitra Shukala Pratipada (March – April). In 2015, the Nav Samvat begins on March 21. The New Year is first day after the Amavasi (No moon) in the month of Chaitra. The current year is known as Keelak Samvatsar.” (Sanwaliya Seth mandir, Chittorgarh)
Vikram Samvat, also alternatively termed as Vikram Samwat, Vikram Sambt, Bikram Samvat, Bikram Samwat and Bikram Sambat, literally means “Vikram’s era”. The Vikram in question was an emperor of ancient India, whose full name was in fact Vikramaditya. He ruled over Ujjain in the Malwa region of central India. This powerful local emperor created the calendar to mark his victory over the Sakas (nomadic invaders from the eastern reaches of Persia) in 56 BC (1 VS). The calendar is a solar year with lunar months.
Celebrations have begun in earnest across much of India and Nepal, where the Vikram Samvat era is official. The governor of the Indian state of Bihar, Keshri Nath Tripathi, extended greetings and warm wishes to celebrants, remarking “I earnestly wish may the New Year bring happiness, peace and prosperity in everyone’s life..” India’s Prime Minister, Narendra Modi also gave greetings to the communities celebrating today. In a temple (mandir) in Udaipur, western India, dedicated to Lord Ram, priests presided over a two-hour long puja prayer ceremony using holy water from seven sacred rivers across their country.
For Kashmiri Pandits, an exiled community from the Kashmir region, it is ‘Navreh’. For Maharashtrians, today marks ‘Gudi Padwa‘. The Sindhis know it as Cheti Chand and for the southern state of Karnataka, it is Ugadi, while eastwards in the state of Manipur, the locals get down to marking the occasion of Sajibu Nongmapanba. Some Buddhists and Parsis also mark festivals around about this time.
In the spirit of the new year, the Half-Eaten Mind brings you a gallery of cool and fun images from around the web marking the first day of 2072 V.S….. “Nutan Varsh Abhinandan” !!!
In the second day of violence in the French-speaking West African nation, five people were killed yesterday as Niger was gripped by religious violence stirred up by the publication of the cartoons in France, which have seen widespread condemnation by Muslim communities across the globe. Charlie Hebdo,a well-known satirical publication that frequently mocks politicians and religions, was the victim of an atrocity last week in which seventeen people, including the editor, Stephane Charbonnier alias Charb, several members of his cartoonists team and three police officers were gunned down by two brothers, the Kouachis, said to have links to Islamic State in Syria. Four shoppers were also taken hostage by another militant at a kosher supermarket, also in Paris, and were killed along with the militant, identified as Amedy Coulibaly, when police raided the Hyper Cacher supermarket in Vincennes on the 9th of January.
The magazine defied the militants by publishing a ‘survivors’ edition’ featuring a cartoon depiction of the founder of Islam crying under the words “Tout est pardonné” (“All is forgiven“). This edition led to numerous protests across the world by Muslims offended by the depiction of their prophet. Islam forbids the depiction of living things, especially Muhammad, as it can be seen as encouraging the unpardonable sin of idolatry. The Charlie Hebdo killings were roundly condemned by leaders of France’s 5 million-strong Muslim minority, many who have become the victims of Islamophobic revenge attacks in the wake of the militant attack last week.
Reporting from the Niger capital Niamey, Reuters journalists say the country has been rocked by two days of violence, and that the death toll has already reached ten. Gangs of youths were reported to have set fire to shops, businesses and places of worship belonging to Niger’s Christian community after a meeting of local Muslim community leaders was allegedly banned by the authorities. Police attempted to battle the rampage and contain the youths by using tear gas. The youths retaliated by throwing stones, before attacking a police station and torching two squad cars in the vicinity.
One of the protesters, named by Reuters as Amadou Abdoul Ouahab, was quoted as saying “They offended our Prophet Mohammad, that’s what we didn’t like,”
Niger’s President Mahamadou Issoufou announced that the five killed on Saturday (17 January 2014) were all civilians. Four were burned to death inside blazing churches and bars selling alcoholic drinks. The Niger president said that an inquiry into the killings would take place and organisers of the riots would be apprehended and punished. “Those who pillage religious sites and profane them, those who persecute and kill their Christian compatriots or foreigners who live on our soil, have understood nothing of Islam,” he said in a televised address.
President Issoufou, himself a Muslim, however disagreed with the publication of the Charlie Hebdo survivors’ issue saying that he shared the disgust and outrage of Muslims at the caricatures of their beloved prophet and that freedom of expression should be accountable of the need to respect religious beliefs. Charlie Hebdo has long attracted flak for lampooning Jews, Catholics and Muslims, but since the killings of its staff last week, the small Paris-based magazine has become a popular bastion of journalistic freedom of expression, including the controversial right to offend. Hundreds of thousands have identified themselves with the trending slogan “Je suis Charlie” (“I am Charlie“) in solidarity with the slain journalists and protecting freedom of speech.
Issoufou was one of the participants last week of a march held in Paris against the atrocity, alongside many world politicians from opposing sides. Yesterday though, he said his participation in that march was to demonstrate his opposition to terrorism and not in support of the magazine itself.
After the riots, calm returned to the streets of Niamey by yesterday afternoon, but another planned march by the city’s Muslim community is feared to possibly re-ignite tensions. The civic authorities put a block on the march going ahead, but organisers have said they will defy the ruling and proceed anyway, possibly risking confrontation with local police and members of the Christian community.
Demonstrations were also reported in regional towns across Niger, including Maradi, 600 km (375 miles) east of Niamey, where two churches were burned. Another church and a residence of the foreign minister were burned in the eastern town of Goure.
The foreign minister of France, which once ruled Niger as an overseas colony, Laurent Fabius, roundly condemned the weekend violence in the country, stating “France expresses its solidarity with the authorities in Niger,” France currently maintains a battery of troops and defences in co-operation with Niger to battle against Islamist insurgencies in the neighbouring state of Mali as part of a regional counter-terrorism operation.
Four preachers of Islam who organised the meeting were arrested on Saturday as tensions began to flare, according to local police. The French government has warned its citizens living as expatriates in Niamey to exercise caution and avoid unnecessary travel.
Residents in Niger’s second largest city of Zinder said that a burned corpse was discovered in the remains of a Catholic church torched by rioters there, bringing the death toll to five from Friday’s clashes. Locals also claimed that wholesale attacks against Zinder’s Christians were instigated, with religious books, churches and minority-owned shops ransacked and set on fire. A French cultural centre was also set alight, and a police officer is among the dead, the rest are civilians, according to sources from the police.
In contrast with Niger, demonstrators in other Francophone west African nations, including Mali, Senegal and Mauritania, and in Algeria in North Africa, made peaceful protests against the Charlie Hebdo controversy after leaving their mosques after they finished Juma’a (Friday) prayers, Reuters reports.
Niger’s 17 million people are almost all Muslims, though its government remains secular. About 94% profess Islam, mostly of the Sunni branch. There are also communities professing Nigerien animism and Christianity.
Indianonline retailerAskMeBazaar.com has been condemned forreligiousinsensitivity byHindu groups after it recently broadcast a video advertisement onYouTube that depicts a Hindu sage (clergyman) dancing with a scantily-clad woman.
The thirty-secondadvertdepicts an actor dressed as the sage, wearing sacred rudraksha beads and saffron coloured garments associated with religious figureheads ofIndia’slargest faith, levitating over aCGIbuilding buried mostly in the ground whileBollywood actressand ‘item girl‘Kangana Ranautis 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 anonline shopselling a wide variety of goods for the Indian market, ranging from fashion accessories and jewellery to medicines and footwear, at often heavily discounted prices. LikeeBay, 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, religiousHindushave 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 inIndia‘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 generalIndian 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 isIndia’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.
This Sunday is the Hindu festival of Raksha Bandhan, which celebrates the special bond between brothers and sisters. On this day, siblings get together. The sister ties a length of specially designed string around the brother’s right wrist and prays for his wellbeing and long life, while the brother gives her gifts and sweets and re-affirms his protection and care for her. It can also be celebrated between male and female cousins and even nowadays with friends.
It is observed by Hindu, Sikhs and Jains in countries such as India, Mauritius, Nepal and in expatriate communities across the globe. In my religion it takes place on the full moon day of the month of Shravan. In the ancient language of Sanskrit, Raksha Bandhan translates as “tie/bond of protection” and has its roots in the pastimes of God as mentioned in our holy scriptures. One such story is that “Deity Lakshmi tied a rakhi onto the wrist of the king Bali thus making him Her brother and therefore helping liberate Lord Narayan i.e. Vishnu. That day as per the Hindu lunar calendar was ‘Shravan Paurnima (Purnima)’.”
“By tying this wristband (raksha) onto your wrist I am binding you just like the powerful and generous King Bali was bound by it. O wristband, do not get displaced.”
The rakhi is the string adornment presented by the sister around her brother’s wrist, usually made up of silk or cotton. It can be simple or have an elaborate design featuring paste or semi-precious stones, religious symbols and beadwork inspired by Indian traditions in embroidery and crafts. They are usually coloured red, but can be of many bright colours, often in the same rakhi. There are even children’s versions that feature cartoon characters and some are equipped with miniature toys, although some feel this trivialises the sanctity of the festival.
Raksha Bandhan is a unique and remarkable festival that celebrates and highlights the unbreakable bond between siblings and between families. That even though the rakhi may eventually weaken and fall off, the importance of caring and treasuring your siblings can never fall away. The sacred bond should always remain strong. The rakhi is beautiful yet strong, just like a sister’s love, and as every sister is different and special in her own way, so is every rakhi. By seeing the rakhi firmly tied to his wrist every day, the brother is reminded that his sister is always there for him and likewise he is poignantly reminded of her love and compassion in his life and his need to support her. As a family member, as a sister, as a confidante, as his best friend.
On this auspicious occasion, the Half-Eaten Mind presents a selection of Raksha Bandhan festival themed wallpapers for you to download and send as virtual greetings for your dearest siblings today.
I dedicate this article to my sweet and wonderful sisters Sherrie, Alia, and Anjali.
Though they don’t all officially celebrate, I want to be thankful for them being in my life and being the blossoms that bring fragrance to my happiness. I am blessed to share my life with each and every one of you xxxxxxxx
❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤ ❤
A Sister Like You Someone who will understand Who knows the way I feel In every situation Her concern is very real Someone who has walked my ways Who knows my every need Times when she would see me cry Her heart would nearly bleed Everyone should have a sister Just the way I do Richly blessed is what I am To have a sister like you
The international Hindu community has expressed outrage against the fashion retail outlet Urban Outfitters after they began selling a quilt with the image of Lord Ganesh superimposed on it, in a direct contravention against Hinduism‘ beliefs regarding the portrayal of deities and yet another example of Western fetishism of the beliefs and imagery of one of the world’s oldest religions.
Urban Outfitters is a high-street clothing and home furnishings chain which operates in both America and the United Kingdom. Headquartered in Philadelphia, the company specialises in selling clothing, housewares and shoes with a vintage, retro and funky hipster feel. Together with its subsidiary brands, the retailer operates around 400 shops worldwide.
The company recently began selling the ‘Valentina Ramos For DENY Lord Ganesha’ duvet cover on its American website for a retail price of between $129 and $169. According to the product description listed next to the offensive item, the quilt was designed by Venezuelan-born graphic artist Valentina Ramos, a member of the DENY Designs artists’ colective. This collective specialise in “fresh, statement-making pieces” and is only being shipped in the United States. Observant devout Hindus who chanced upon the quilt cover on the website began writing complaints to Urban Outfitters. Images of Hindu deities are accorded the uttermost respect and are used by worshippers to focus their minds on God when praying. Usage of deities’ images for commercial purposes is considered blasphemous and disrespectful. In the case of Urban Outfitters, the usage of Lord Ganesh’s image, shown on the site in thick line drawing format and printed with stereotypically bright ‘Indian’ colours, is particularly onerous as customers who purchase the Valentina Ramos cover will be using it to sleep under and engage in intimate activities.
Urban Outfitters were previously slammed by the American Hindu community after selling socks imprinted with the image of Lord Ganesh, which were quickly withdrawn from sale after the backlash. The red and blue socks which has a Tamil-style image of Lord Ganesh sewn into the fabric around the part of the item above the ankle, were being sold for $8 a pair and were dropped from sales in December 2013. The retail chain has in previous years also insulted Navajo people, African- and Irish-Americans, and the obese. Its branding of t-shirts and scarves has also drawn criticism from groups with the US Christian and Jewish communities.
Rajan Zed, the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism said in a statement about the duvet yesterday: “[Lord Ganesh is] highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be slept … upon. Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotee.” Zed’s comment and this original story were published by the international Hindu rights and education organisation Forum for Hindu Awakening. He has also asked Urban Outfitter’s president Richard Hayne and chief executive officer Tedford Marlow to tender an apology to the group and the wider Hindu community.
Mr. Zed also made statements on Urban Outfitter’s previous transgression with the socks depicting Lord Ganesh. At that time, Urban Outfitters released a statement in response, saying: “We sincerely apologize [sic] if we offended the Hindu community and our customers.
“We appreciate Rajan Zed and the Universal Society of Hinduism for bringing this matter to our attention and for helping us understand the cultural and religious sensitivities this product carries. We will remove the Ganesh Socks immediately from our website and stores.”
Urban Outfitters have not yet responded to Zed’s comments on this current and repeat slander against the Hindu faith and the offending duvet cover is still available for sale on the retailer’s website, as noted today by the Half-Eaten Mind.
Lord Ganesh, also known as Ganpati Dada and Vinayak, is the son of Lords Shiva and Parvati in Hinduism. He is the remover of obstacles in a person’s life and symbolises all beginnings and ends. He is also the patron deity of the arts and sciences and blesses humanity with intellect and wisdom. Many yoga centres in both India and the West place an image of Lord Ganesh on the walls of their premises to bless the quest for learning among yoga students. Some smaller companies producing clothes for yoga fans in the US have included small images of Lord Ganesh on their clothing for decoration but have not attracted controversy due to their more devoted intentions surrounding the use of the holy image.
Many Westerners have long being attracted to both Indian culture and religion, with bindis, Asian fabrics, ethnic jewellery and arts long making trends in Europe and North America. While many commentators have lauded this cultural crossover, others have claimed that the obsession with trends and fashion, the ‘next big thing’ have reduced both cultural and religious symbols of non-white cultures to mere playthings and statements. Artistic depiction of deities is commonplace among Hindu artisans but is always done in a respectful manner and not using media or materials that are blasphemous or offensive to the religion.