Hindu deity image on dog bed causes controversy

The Universal Society of Hinduism is objecting to dog beds and other products featuring the image of Lord Ganesha, a Hindu deity, sold by Oceanside-based company KESS Inhouse.

 Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada-based society, said it’s disrespectful for a person or dog to walk, sit or lie on the image of Lord Ganesha, who is the god of wisdom and remover of obstacles. He asked KESS Inhouse to stop selling certain products featuring the deity and apologize to Hindus.

The company first removed from its website all of the Lord Ganesha products, Zed said, even though he said the wall hangings and paintings were not an issue.

The company has since put all of the products back online, including the ones that Zed said are offensive. The Union-Tribune confirmed that Lord Ganesha products, including the dog beds, were available on KESS Inhouse’s website on Monday. The dog beds started at $110. A fleece blanket sells for $59, a dog placemat for $29, and a throw pillow for $39. 

“Mostly out of ignorance, companies do not know, and when we object, they usually remove it. Not all the time, but most of the time,” Zed said in a phone interview. “As long as customers don’t put their feet on Ganesha or dogs are sitting on Ganesha. Those are objectionable. The rest are fine. We’re only asking them to remove a few items.”

Sara Gupta-O’Neill of KESS InHouse said that the company had never been contacted by Zed directly and that the products have been around for two or three years. She said that she grew up in a Hindu household, and no one in her family found the products offensive. 

KESS InHouse contracts with artists for many of the designs on its products, but according to the “Golden Ganesha” product page, the Lord Ganesha design was done by KESS Inhouse staff.

“We didn’t want to censor the design, and we didn’t right away,” Gupta-O’Neill said. “We didn’t want to feel like we were censoring art in any way, shape or form.”

Then, Zed began reaching out to platforms like Wayfair that carry KESS InHouse products. KESS InHouse decided to remove the products that offended Zed.

“We didn’t want them to have any kind of headaches or issues,” Gupta-O’Neill said. “They’re a very large portion of our business.”

She did not know why the products still appeared on the company’s website on Monday and said she would look into it.

Zed said he has suggested that companies should send representatives for cultural awareness training to keep them from accidentally offending particular groups with images on products or advertising. 

“This hurts the feelings of the devotees. We worship Ganesha,” Zed said. “Whenever we start a new project or a major undertaking, Lord Ganesha is invoked first.

“No faith should be mishandled, smaller or larger,” Zed said.

Zed has also recently called on online retail giant Amazon to remove skateboards and other items featuring Lord Ganesha and online home decor site Wayfair to remove Lord Ganesha bathmats.

Hinduism, which began in India, is the world’s third largest religion. There were about 6,800 Hindus in San Diego County in 2010, according to the most recent data available from the Association of Religion Data Archives.

Source: sandiegouniontribune.com