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Hindu group unhappy with goddess Kali mural at Brooklyn Museum

Spokesman urges its removal

December 19, 2014 By Mary Frost Brooklyn Daily Eagle
This work at the Brooklyn Museum depicting the Hindu goddess Kali, by Brooklyn artist Chitra Ganesh, has caused a stir in the Hindu community. Photo courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum
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Hindus are upset over an “inappropriate” portrayal of Hindu goddess Kali in a mural at the Brooklyn Museum, says Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism based in Nevada.

This 60-foot mixed-media goddess Kali wall mural is part of the recently opened “Eyes of Time” exhibition at the Herstory Gallery of the Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art. The work was created by renowned Brooklyn artist Chitra Ganesh.  It shows Kali with three legs, three breasts and six arms, with a clock for a face.

The goddess Kali is “highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely in reimagined versions for dramatic effects on museum walls,” Zed said in a statement on Thursday.

“Hindus welcomed museums and artists to immerse in Hinduism but [take] it seriously and respectfully,” he said. Zed urged the Brooklyn Museum to withdraw the work and issue a formal apology.

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Dr. Uma Mysorekar, president of The Hindu Temple Society of North America, located in Flushing, also found the image to be  disrespectful. She told the Brooklyn Eagle,It is indeed very disturbing to see exhibits of the greatly revered and worshiped Hindu goddess Kali portrayed in an erroneous, distasteful, and an insulting way. Kali, a form of Devi and a consort of Lord Shiva, is worshiped by all Hindus. She is most compassionate as she provides moksha or liberation to her children and is considered as a Goddess of enlightenment. This form of depiction of Kali at the Brooklyn Museum is not only incorrect but also insulting to all Hindus. Religious objects or pictures are very sentimental and personal and must not be misrepresented or subjected to mockery. I humbly appeal to the authorities at Brooklyn Museum to remove these displays from the exhibits.”

The goddess Kali is one of the figures honored with a place setting in Judy Chicago’s “The Dinner Party,” on permanent view in the adjacent gallery.

“Responding to this unique context, Ganesh’s exhibition continues her ongoing exploration of iconic female characters, such as goddesses and female superheroes, and how they connect to contemporary feminist ideas and imagery,” the Brooklyn Museum says on its website. The museum adds that Ganesh depicts Kali as one of “many avatars of feminine divinity.”

Reached on Friday, the Brooklyn Museum said it had no comment on the issue.

Ganesh, who incorporated materials gathered during her recent year-long stay in India to create the composition, did not respond to the Brooklyn Eagle by press time. On her website, she describes her work as drawing from a broad range of material, including the iconography of Hindu, Greek and Buddhist mythology, 19th century European portraiture, archival photography, Bollywood posters, anime and comic books.

Zed has spoken out in the past about the depiction of Hindu gods in media. In July, he asked Urban Outfitters to pull a duvet cover that depicts Lord Ganesha, a Hindu deity, according to Metro U.S. He led a Hindu prayer in the U.S. Senate in 2007, which upset some conservative Christians.

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