Upset Hindus are urging “World-Renowned” Peabody Essex Museum (PEM) in Salem (Massachusetts) to immediately withdraw from its shop and online the plush toys featuring Hindu deities Krishna-Ganesh-Hanuman, calling it highly inappropriate.
Distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman were greatly revered in Hinduism and were meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely on the floor, bathrooms, cars, etc.; or “attach it to your baby’s diaper bag” or “press its belly” to make it sing for you; or hit by feet; or squeezed; or used as a pillow or play ball; etc. (Description of Lord Hanuman Plush toy even hints at bending its “flexible tail”). Inappropriate usage of sacred Hindu deities or concepts or symbols or icons for mercantile or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees, Zed added.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, also urged PEM CEO Lynda Roscoe Hartigan and Trustees Chair Stuart W. Pratt to offer a formal apology, besides withdrawing Krishna-Ganesh-Hanuman plush toys from Museum Shop and website.
PEM; “nation’s oldest continuously operating museum”, supported by “state and federal grants” and which claims to focus on “cultural understanding”; should not be in the business of religious appropriation, sacrilege and belittling sacred Hindu deities. It was deeply trivializing of immensely venerated Hindu deities to be treated like this; Rajan Zed indicated.
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.2 billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously. Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled; Zed noted.
Moreover, it was saddening for the devotees to see Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman reduced as a toy under the mercy and control of the owner, while in reality the believers put the destinies of themselves in the hands of their deities; Rajan Zed pointed out.
Zed further said that art had a long and rich tradition in Hinduism, ancient Sanskrit literature talked about religious paintings of deities on wood or cloth, and Hindus were for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith was something sacred and attempts at trivializing it was painful for the followers.
Rajan Zed was of the view that insensitive handling of faith traditions sometimes resulted in pillaging serious spiritual doctrines and revered symbols.
In Hinduism, Lord Ganesh is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking. Lord Krishna is the eighth avatar (incarnation) of Lord Vishnu and subject of major Hindu scriptures such as the Bhagavad-Gita (Song of the Lord) and Bhagavad-Purana. Lord Hanuman is known for incredible strength and was a perfect grammarian.
Krishna-Ganesh-Hanuman plush toys were priced between $20 to $38 at PEM Shop.
Founded in 1799, PEM claims its “collection is among the finest of its kind, with superlative works from around the globe and across time”, and also claims to hold “one of the nation’s most important museum-based collections of rare books and manuscripts”.