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Installation view of Chitra Ganesh, ‘Eyes of Time’ at the Brooklyn Museum (all photos courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

The centerpiece of Chitra Ganesh’s new exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum, a mural that depicts the Hindu goddess Kali, has provoked the ire of the president of the Universal Society of Hinduism (USH). What is the Universal Society of Hinduism, you ask? Hard to say, as its website is currently down, and no posts have ever been published on its blog, but its Nevada-based president, Rajan Zed, keeps a very active website that describes the USH as a “nondenominational religious-philosophical-cultural-educational organization [that] aims at reaching about one billion Hindus spread around the world.” One of the most recent press releases on Zed’s site is titled “Upset Hindus urge withdrawal of goddess Kali mural from Brooklyn Museum.”

“Such trivialization of goddess Kali was disturbing to the devotees world over, Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, stated and urged Brooklyn Museum to withdraw it,” the statement reads. “Zed also asked Museum’s Director Arnold L. Lehman to tender a formal public apology.”

The Brooklyn Museum declined to comment on Zed’s accusations and demands.

Nevada-based “Hindu statesman” Rajan Zed (photo courtesy Rajan Zed, via rajanzed.org)

Ganesh’s exhibition at the Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for Feminist Art, Eyes of Time, features a large-scale, site-specific mural of Kali, the Hindu goddess of time, destruction, and regeneration. The deity has long been a popular figure with feminist scholars and is included in Judy Chicago’s “Dinner Party” in the adjacent gallery. Ganesh portrays Kali as a towering figure with three legs, three breasts, six arms, a clock with no hands for a head, and, in keeping with traditional portrayals, a skirt made of severed human arms. It’s unclear from Zed’s press release which element or elements of the mural offended him and the other, unnamed Hindus he cites:

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada today, said that goddess Kali was 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. Such absurd depiction of goddess Kali with no scriptural backing was hurtful to the devotees.

Zed is known to make pronouncements on any and all matters relating to Hindu culture. In a 2013 post about Zed’s message of approval for a new Selena Gomez music video, Gawker referred to him as the “Hindu-in-Chief.”

Installation view of Chitra Ganesh, ‘Eyes of Time’ at the Brooklyn Museum (all photos courtesy of the Brooklyn Museum)

Chitra Ganesh’s Eyes of Time continues at the Brooklyn Museum (200 Eastern Parkway, Prospect Heights, Brooklyn) through July 12, 2015

Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy Sherman, and other divisive issues have...

4 replies on “Brooklyn Museum Mural Irks Self-Appointed Spokesman for All Hindus”

  1. Hey, I’m a universal authority on Hinduism too, and I’m offended by this guy’s small-mindedness. This kind of medieval rhetoric drove MF Husain out of India 20+ years ago and it has no place in the modern world.

    1. If I understand correctly, it didn’t have much place in Hindu India in earlier eras either.

      I’ve always thought that one of Hinduism’s great strengths was its complete lack of insistence on orthodox belief or doctrine. You may not have been able to eat whatever you like, eat with whomever you like, or marry whomever you like (if he/she isn’t from your caste), but you could more or less believe whatever you like. That’s why Jews, Christians, and Zoroastrians were able to live comfortably as religious minorities in India for a millennium or more.

      1. You are correct. Hindu fundamentalism is an Evangelical movement that emerged in the 19th century along with Wahabbism, born-again Christian movements, and Zionism. All these are religions of colonial expansionism and exceptionalism.

  2. Chitra Ganesh, ‘Eyes of Time’. Chitra seems to be turning a blind eye to the very Ancient and Revered Hindu Proverb, “A Woman’s Breast are Liken to a Good Martini, One is Not Enough & Three Are Too Many.”

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