After Shiva beer, Selena Gomez’ bindi act, it’s the turn of Lord Ganesha on a pair of Teeki pants

Going for $66, the pants commercialize an Indian deity.

By Deepak Chitnis

Ganesha pantsWASHINGTON, DC: A California-based clothing company is drawing a lot of flak for a pants line it just put out that heavily features the Hindu deity Ganesha on it.

The company, Teeki, which specializes in active-wear and yoga clothing, has come under fire from Hindu advocacy groups for creating the pants. Several retailers selling Teeki clothing – including omnipresent chains like Sears and Amazon – have also been called on to stop selling the item. The “Ganesha’s Hot Dream Pant” sells for around $66 in the US.

A Hindu deity being used to promote an American product is nothing new, and has been done for years. But in recent months, several Hindus have come out in strong opposition against these practices, only to face the usual chorus of empty apologies. Hindu deities continue to be used to market modern products that, more often than not, go against the very values that Hinduism preaches.

Clothing chain Urban Outfitters put Ganesha on a sock, as well as other religious figures like Jesus Christ, and issued an apology. They have also pulled the socks off shelves, stopping sales in response to the backlash against them. The feet are considered impure in Hindu theology, therefore making a sock with a God on it one of the worst kinds of clothing offenses possible.

58afd5e4-d667-4c86-ac39-fef8c641c935_ganesh-socks-urban-outfittersEarlier this year, the Asheville Brewing company stirred up trouble by featuring the Hindu God Shiva on labels for one of its Indian Pale Ales (IPA) beer lines. The small craft beer company was immediately inundated with emails and calls from vocal sections of the Hindu community, urging that the sacred icon not be used in conjunction with an alcoholic beverage.

While Asheville Brewery admitted their mistake, they also said that they wouldn’t change the label. Located in Asheville, North Carolina, the Shiva IPA is still available at their three locations around the city, and carries an ABV of 6.0%.

A similar story occurred in Australia, when Brookvale Union Brewery released a line of ginger beer that had an image of the Goddess Lakshmi on its label. However, in this case, the company swiftly apologized for the perceived religious slight and made amends, changing the label to remove any potentially offensive imagery.

“We’re lovers, not fighters, we want to make it right,” they announced last month, when the scandal occurred. “With recent feedback brought to our attention, we will be looking at design options for our bottles.”

Actress and pop star Selena Gomez also found herself in the crosshairs of a vocal group of Hindus when she appeared wearing a bindi during performances of one of her songs, “Come and Get It,” which features Indian and Bollywood influences in it

asheville-shiva-ipaThe performances occurred back in April, when Gomez was on a world tour to promote her recently released album, but she was not alone. Several American celebrities, including Gwen Stefani and Katy Perry, have taken to wearing variations of the bindi as a fashion statement. In an interview with Billboard, Priyanka Chopra was asked what she thought of a Hindu element like that being used so casually by those who weren’t followers of the faith.

“I think it’s great that musicians are discovering the beauty of the bindi,” she said. “In today’s day and age, the bindi is not restricted to religious or traditional purpose.”

Those are some of the more high-profile examples that occurred in 2013, but those and several others that may not have received the same amount of coverage go toward showing that the misappropriation of Hindu deities for modern products is becoming a growing problem. Companies are becoming increasingly cavalier in their usage of religious imagery on potentially offensive products.

To contact the author, email to deepakchitnis@americanbazaaronline.com

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