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Guidelines for retailers to avoid offensive use of Hindu images

Guidelines for retailers to avoid offensive use of Hindu images
June 13
14:01 2019

NEELA PANDYA

WASHINGTON DC: In the past several years, there have been a great number of instances where retailers have sold items displaying Hindu deities’ imagery in ways that many devotees find disrespectful at best or downright offensive at worst.
Ganesh toilet seats, Kali underwear, Krishna bathmats, Om flip flops, are all just some of the items that have made it to virtual store shelves and caused uproar amongst Hindus across the world.

Though Hindu imagery has been regularly used in a commercial context to market many domestic items, there are certain guidelines that are generally observed. In India, there is an oftenunspoken understanding on what is and is not appropriate usage of images of deities and of sacred symbols. Outside of India, however, these standards may well not be known.
To offer broad guidance for both retailers and manufacturers, the Hindu American Foundation (HAF) has published a set of guidelines called “To Use or Not to Use? Guidelines for Commercial Use of Hindu Images”.

Given that many online retailers such as Amazon, Etsy, and CafePress have acceptable use policies prohibiting offensive material, it is their responsibility to quickly take action to remove from sale offensive items when this happens. It is also the responsibility of the retailers to educate their employees who review such complaints about what is generally considered acceptable use of Hindu imagery (as well as sacred imagery in general, regardless of faith tradition).

It is hoped that inappropriate use of Hindu imagery needs to be reduced to zero in the future, through educating both retailers and manufacturers. In addition, this resource may prove useful to non-Hindus attracted to such items, helping them understand the implications of their purchases.

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