Activist opposes museum selling toys of Hindu deities

BOSTON (AP) — A Hindu rights activist is asking a Massachusetts museum to stop selling children’s stuffed toys depicting three Hindu deities, which he calls “insensitive.”

Toys depicting Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman were available on the Peabody Essex Museum’s online store last week but were removed on Tuesday, Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, said in a statement.

Deities are “highly revered in Hinduism and were intended to be worshiped in temples or household shrines and not to be thrown freely on the floor, bathrooms, cars, etc.” Zed said. He also called for an official apology from the museum. Zed previously asked the Rubin Museum of Art in New York to stop selling the toys.

The Salem-based Peabody Essex Museum has halted sales of the toys while it investigates the complaint, spokeswoman Whitney Van Dyke said in an email. “These items will be on sale again shortly,” she said.

The museum pointed out that the toys are widely available and are made by New Jersey-based Modi Toys, founded by a Native American family.

They are meant to spark curiosity about Hindu culture and heritage, the company’s co-founder Avani Modi Sarkar said in a statement.

“While we understand that not everyone will agree with our approach, we take pride in knowing that we are giving families the opportunity to learn and practice Hinduism in a fun and functional way,” she said. declared.

Another organization, the Hindu American Foundation, which has guidelines for the commercial use of Hindu imagery on its website, has no problem with the toys, spokesman Mat McDermott said.

“While we recognize Mr. Zed’s concerns, we have no categorical objection to the sale of these toys,” said McDermott, who noted he had seen them for sale at Hindu temples.

The Peabody Essex Museum features an extensive collection of Indian and South Asian pieces that “celebrate the beauty, diversity and complexity” of the region, the museum said.

Hinduism is the world’s third largest religion with approximately 1.1 billion adherents.

The Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism has launched several campaigns targeting what Zed sees as the misuse of sacred symbols for commercial purposes.

In 2020, online homeware retailer Wayfair released a beach towel depicting a Hindu deity after opposition from the organization. Zed was also part of an interfaith coalition that in 2019 called on nightclubs to stop using Buddhist and Hindu imagery. as decor.