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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.
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.”