Upset Hindus are urging “Outdoor & Sporting Goods Company” REI (Recreational Equipment, Inc.) headquartered near Seattle for immediate withdrawal of yoga mat towel carrying reimagined images of Hindu deity Lord Ganesh; calling it highly inappropriate.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that Lord Ganesh was highly revered in Hinduism and was meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to sit/stand on or put feet/buttocks/legs/body on or to absorb/wipe one’s sweat. Inappropriate usage of Hindu deities or concepts or symbols for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees.
Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, also urged REI Interim President & CEO Eric Artz to offer a formal apology.
Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about 1.1 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, Rajan Zed noted.
Zed further said that such trivialization of Hindu deity was disturbing to the Hindus. 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 hurt the followers, Zed added.
This objectionable “yogitoes Yoga Mat Towel Enlightened” was selling on REI website for $46.73 and was described as “an absorbent, hygienic towel that layers on top of your yoga mat to prevent slipping”.
In Hinduism, Lord Ganesh is worshipped as god of wisdom and remover of obstacles and is invoked before the beginning of any major undertaking. There are about three million Hindus in USA.
Award-winning “specialty outdoor retailer” REI, founded in 1938, claims to be “nation’s largest consumer cooperative” with over 17 million members, 154 stores and online presence, and “responsible business practices”. Products include gear and apparel for outdoor pursuits; including hiking, cycling, fitness, camping, snowsports, traveling, climbing, kayaking, canoeing, bird watching, etc. Steven Hooper is Chair of its Board of Directors.