Unlike other idols, this deity is shown in many different forms and appearances. Except for its elephant head, which is never changed, it is shown in various attires, poses and actions. The city of Pune in India, is well known for a festival held in rainy season, where Lord Ganesha is publicly worshiped. The Ganesha idols installed in nooks and corners of the Pune city for a period of 10 days are shown in a fabulous range of attires, poses and actions. He might appear at one place like a wrestler fighting the evil or may appear with a sword and a shield all ready to fight. He may transform himself in Lord Rama or Lord Krishna depending the imagination and incline of the sculptor.
The coastal region of India on west coast is known as Konkan. There is an old tradition here of staging plays in the villages, during this Ganesha festival. Even in these plays, the first character that would appear on the stage would always be Lord Ganesha. He would bless the play and performing actors. This would ensure, it is believed, that the play would go to its end, smoothly and without any hitch. We can surely say that stage plays are not a novelty for Lord Ganesha at all and he is rather used to these.
Unbelievably, Lord Ganesha has now reached the stage for performing arts in far away Australia. He is not appearing in some stage play of some immigrant Hindu community. He is appearing in a Bruce Galdwin directed “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich”, play that will be shown at Merlyn Theatre (The Malthouse) in Southbank (Victoria, Australia) from September 29 to October nine 2011.
The strange storyline of this play follows this line. The emblem of Swastika is very dear to Lord Ganesha and he guards it with zeal and attention. Some Nazi SS troupes from Hitler’s Third Reich, steal this emblem from Lord Ganesha and start using it. Lord Ganesha is upset and follows the Nazi’s to Hitler’s Germany. Lord Ganesha conjure an epic journey through Germany and goes, one-on-one with Hitler. In the process he is tortured by Nazi SS, but overcomes all evil to win at end and retrieve the Swastika emblem.
The story has been described rightly as a wildly inventive ride through history, where sacred icons and rituals become weapons of theatrical production. Some of the stories from Hindu mythology are very much on similar lines, where we have demons instead of Nazi’s and Hitler. However some of the Hindu immigrants to US and Australia have not appreciated this storyline.
Rajan Zed, a Hindu statesman from Nevada (USA) and the President of Universal Society of Hinduism has issued a statement. He says that Lord Ganesha should be worshiped in temples and home shrines and not to be made a laughing stock on theater stages. He says that that Lord Ganesha was divine and theater/film/art were welcome to create projects about/around him showing his true depiction as mentioned in the scriptures. Creating irrelevant imaginary imagery, like reportedly depicting him being tortured and interrogated by Nazi SS, hurt the devotees.
He feels that taxpayer funded organizations like Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Victoria, and City of Melbourne; which support this play; should be more vigilant in their selections and points out that the majority is needed to be more sensitive about the feelings of “others”. Recently, depiction of Hindu Goddess Lakshmi on swimwear at a fashion event held in Sydney (Australia) resulted in worldwide protests. Popular radio host Kyle Sandilands recently made derogatory remarks, ridiculing Hindus’ holy river Ganga, on Sydney’s hit music station. Australian swimwear company, Sandilands and his radio station later apologized after the protests.
In a curious development Nevada Jews have supported the Hindus on their concerns about ” Ganesh versus the Third Reich” play. Rabbi Elizabeth W. Beyer, a prominent Jewish leader says that although she valued freedom of expression, especially in the arts, it was unnecessary dragging into the Third Reich of a deity who was highly revered by our Hindu brothers and sisters. Such trivialization of Lord Ganesha, whom Hindus worshipped, would naturally hurt the faithful, and must be avoided.
Very strange isn’t it? A play is being staged in Australia. Group of Hindu’s from Nevada (USA) object to it and local Jews join the protest. Perhaps they are not aware of the traditions in India, where Lord Ganesha appears often in stage plays. What might be considered as mildly objectionable here is the treatment Lord Ganesha receives at the hands of Nazi SS. How can you torture a God? That is impossible. Perhaps the story should be amended in a suitable way where Ganesha incarnates himself into an ordinary German, who is tortured by Nazi’s. At the end Lord appears himself and destroys all evil (Hitler and Nazi’s) and saves his innocent German embodiment. Ha Ha!
25th September 2011