A play that depicts Lord Ganesha being tortured, interrogated and manhandled by Hitler’s Secret Service being shown at the Melbourne Festival this year has ignited an outcry of protest and anger from the Hindu community in Melbourne.
‘Lord Ganesha vs. The Third Reich’ has raised endless controversy, with many Australian – Indians wanting the insensitive trivialization of their God to be removed from the script. The play also incorporates several sexual innuendos in relation to the elephant – headed Lord Ganesha’s trunk and uses obscene language in several scenes.
President of the Council of Indian Australians, Yadu Singh, emphasized the lack of respect felt by the Hindu community in Melbourne and requested that Melbourne Festival organizers and producers of the play understand, “It is not right to use religious symbols, from any religion, in comedy or as a joke, it’s offensive, insulting and inappropriate.”
The Jewish Community in Melbourne too, has expressed support alongside Hindus in the protesting against ‘Lord Ganesha vs. The Third Reich’, asking for understanding, compassion and an educated perspective when it comes to religious and cultural sensitivities.
The issue has reached far beyond Australian borders, hitting the shores in USA and England with great force and impact. Hindu – Americans have been taking a stand alongside their Australian counterparts and demanding immediate action be taken to rectify the situation.
Rajan Zed, President of the Universal Society for Hinduism and is based in the US, has issued a statement expressing his disappointment at Lord Ganesha – the Hindu God of wisdom and new beginnings, being used as a source of comedic entertainment.
In response to the expressed outrage, the Back to Back Theatre – the company in charge of the production of the play, has attempted to apologize to the Hindu community by issuing the following statement on their website:
“We regret any inadvertent concern or apprehension about the play which may have arisen prior to its performance.”
On the 28th of September, representatives of the Hindu Community Council of Victoria, Vishwa Hindu Parishad youth leaders, members of the Hindu society of Victoria, on the invitation of the Victorian Multicultural Commission met the producers and organizers of the play and were able to watch it in detail. Upon seeing the production, they were disappointed to find that the play greatly denigrated and took for granted several Hindu beliefs and Gods.
From October 6th to 9th, several members of the Hindu community in Melbourne also gathered outside the Malthouse Theatre in the CBD to protest the play and raise their voice for their religion and asking for the Australian mantra ‘A fair go for all’ to be practiced not merely preached.
The production comes just months after an Australian brand of swimwear bikinis featuring Goddess Lakshmi was pulled from shops and Fox FM Radio Jockey – Kyle Sandilands labeling the holy river Ganges, a junkyard. Hindu Australians are calling for more education on tolerance and backgrounds of other cultures so other religions do not suffer a similar fate and are left offended.
By Rahat Kapur
G’day India took to the streets to find out what Australians and Indians alike are saying about this controversial issue:
“It’s disgraceful to think that people will stoop so low as to making fun of someone else’s beliefs for other people’s entertainment”.
“Religion is one of those things that just cannot be used for humour purposes in my opinion, because you can never taunt someone else’s beliefs in good taste.”
“It’s shameful that the play is being allowed to go ahead. It’s really insensitive and hurtful for those affected.”
“I’m not Hindu, but I think if someone wrote a play portraying my religious faith in that manner, I’d be very offended.”
“I haven’t seen the play so I can’t really judge how it’s been shown, but the concept is definitely very insensitive.”