Over the past few weeks there has been some controversy over a play that featured as part of the Comedy Festival here in Melbourne. Titled: Ganesh Versus the Third Reich" has drawn both criticism and approval from various members of the Hindu Community, both locally as well as abroad.

What follows is some of the correspondence which HCCV has received.

 

ganesh2

Lord Ganesh

 

Opposing views are quoted in BLUE text, Approving views are quoted in PURPLE text.

 

Opposing the play:

 

To the Organisers of the Melbourne Festival and the Management of the Malt House theatre,

Namaste,

I am an Indian and I write this mail in deep anguish. We Hindus revere Lord Ganesh as the remover of obstacles and is celebrated in each home in India. We invoke the blessings of Lord Ganesh before every event performed at our houses so that the event passes off smoothly without any hiccups. For millions of Hindus Lord Ganesh is a symbol of success, piety and celebration. It is indeed sad that you have chosen to ridicule Lord Ganesh through your play. The dress worn by the actor who represents Lord Ganesh and the portrayal with Hitler is blasphemous and slanderous. It seems that you have chosen to denigrate Hindu gods only because the response of Hindus is never violent or even loud.

However, we wish that you take this protest seriously and stop the further plays of this blasphemous drama. Be sure that we will not lie down until such denigration stops altogether. I hope you will consider this earnest appeal and the hurt it has caused among Hindus and apologize and stop the play from further screenings.

Hari Om,

Prashanth

 

Opposing the play:

 

To the Organisers of the Melbourne Festival,

Namaste,

I am writing this email to bring to your attention the enormous concern in the Hindu community in Victoria about the blatant trivialisation and denigration of Lord Ganesh by the play “Ganesh versus the third Reich “ which is due to premier in the Malthouse theatre on the 29th of September as a part of the Melbourne Festival.

Lord Ganesh, the most revered deity in Hinduism is denigrated by portraying Him as one who is mad with anger and is shown in a skimpy looking elephant mask. Ones fictitious imagination in the form of a story cannot be used to portray Hindu deities, this portrays Hinduism and Hindu values in poor light and also conveys a wrong message about Hinduism to young Hindu children and those curious about Hinduism (those wanting to understand it in its true essence).

This portrayal has hurt the sentiments of wider Hindu community due to which Hindu leaders in the community have started a dialogue with the Victorian multicultural commission and Minister for Multicultural Affairs and citizenship (Vic) with an intention to stop this play.

The Melbourne Festival has always been one of the most esteemed events in a calendar year for Victoria and has always showcased the proud multicultural and rich ethnic background of Victorians through the means of artistic performances. However this play doesn’t serve the purpose of the Melbourne festival as it has caused great anguish within the Hindu community in Victoria. This blatant trivialisation and denigration of Lord Ganesh is against the taste of multiculturalism and tolerance towards others spiritual practices and beliefs.

I urge the Melbourne festival organisers  to cancel this event, as a show of goodwill to the Hindu community in Victoria. I hope that you will respond with some action in a favourable direction to this matter with immediate effect as the show is due to premier on the 29th of September.

In anticipation of a favourable response from you.

With kind regards,

Vamsi Krishna

Volunteer Member, Forum For Hindu Awakening.

www.hinduawakening.org

 

Response from Alice Nash, Executive Producer, Back to Back Theatre:

 

Dear Vamsi Krishna,

I am the Executive Producer of Back to Back Theatre. Your email has been passed on to me by our Artistic Director, Bruce Gladwin.

Thanks so much for sending through your thoughts.

I would like to assure you that it is not our intent to portray GANESH in a way that is disrespectful. The show is not a comedy but a serious investigation into issues about cultural appropriation: it explores who has the authority to tell stories, and how - via symbols, rituals and the like - stories can be told.


Back to Back Theatre is a theatre company with an ensemble of actors with disabilities at its core. In presenting GANESH, Back to Back is seeking, in part, to examine how individuals who are perceived to be outsiders (of all kinds), can comment and respond to, and so by extension, be more strongly integrated into a pluralistic society.

I appreciate your concerns and I hope this email goes some way towards allaying your concerns about the show.

Most sincerely,

Alice Nash

Executive Producer

Back to Back Theatre

 

Opposing the play:

 

Dear Alice, Namaste,

We can understand your intentions, however, I would like to explain how portraying Lord Ganesh in this play is denigration –

1.     The play intends that Lord Ganesh is going to take back the Swastika from Hitler. Functions of deities are clearly explained in our Hindu Scriptures, and that is how the deities should be portrayed. Portraying Hindu Gods in any other form is denigration.

2.     The picture of a man with elephant head in Sumo like pose behind Hitler is pure denigration, because Lord Ganesh doesn’t look anything like you have shown. Hindu deities shown in any form other than their Scriptural description is denigration.

3.     We believe that using symbols from any Scriptures incorrectly hurts the religious feelings of people as it was seen when the Danish cartoon was published. It had created disharmony in the society.

4.     The blatant trivialisation and denigration of Lord Ganesh in your play is against the taste of multiculturalism and tolerance towards others’ spiritual practices and beliefs.

We are sure there must be more such examples in the actual play. It is a sin to portray Hindu deities as mentioned above. Hindus all over the world will be deeply offended by this type of portrayal. Hence I again urge you to reconsider and cancel this play.

With Kind Regards,

Vamsi Krishna

Volunteer member, Forum For Hindu Awakening.

www.hinduawakening.org

 

 

Approving the play:

 

 

Ganesh Versus The Third Reich

As I write this I have next to me a clipboard that was given to me in India. It was intended for Indian primary school students and was printed in Mumbai. On one side there is a cartoon figure of Ganesh as an impish 8-year-old with big eyes, looking cartoon cute. On the back of the board is the same Ganesh riding a motorcycle, with a human boy behind him.

 

ganesh-cartoon ganesha_my_friend

(cartoon images inserted by HCCV web administrator)


When we consider the play, Ganesh Versus The Third Reich, we should not become humourless fundamentalists. Ganesh is lovable. Every Indian knows this. He lends Himself to cuteness and intimacy. While I haven’t yet seen the play (I plan to rectify this next week), I have had extensive conversations with Peter Bridges, the chair of the board of the Back to Back Theatre Company, and also an independent friend of mine – also a Hindu – who recently saw the play. From these conversations, I’m completely convinced that the figure of Lord Ganesh, as portrayed in the play, is treated lovingly and respectfully. The play itself is a plea for tolerance and humanity, and against totalitarianism. And the work of the theatre company with the intellectually disabled is only worthy of praise.

The idea of Parvati sending Ganesh to Germany to reclaim the swastika is charming, as Ganesh is charming. Since the swastika represents Ganesh (among other things), He’s the man for the job. And shouldn’t we do something when a symbol of infinite Consciousness is co-opted for evil? And Ganesh is not only charming, the play depicts him as a powerful force for good.

Hindus should not be outraged at this play. They might be justifiably outraged that Hitler stole their pure symbol, so that when Westerners visit India they are shocked to see swastikas.  Let’s be happy that Lord Ganesh is doing something about it.

I call on the Hindu community to have a sense of proportion and to keep our sense of humour. No disrespect is intended. Indeed, the play educates and inspires love for Ganesh. Let’s lighten up.


Mahamandaleshwar
Swami Shankarananda


Director, Shiva Ashram
Shiva Ashram 27 Tower Road
Mount Eliza, 3930
VIC, Australia

www.shivayoga.org


 



 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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