Sep 23, 2011

Jews stand with Hindus on Ganesh vs. Hitler play in Melbourne Festival

Jews have supported the Hindus on their concerns about “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich” play premiering at Melbourne Festival in Australia on September 29

Rabbi ElizaBeth W. Beyer, prominent Jewish leader in Nevada (USA), in a statement today, said 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 Ganesh, whom Hindus worshipped, would naturally hurt the faithful, and must be avoided, Rabbi Beyer added.

Meanwhile, Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, who spearheaded the issue, in a statement in USA today, said that the play producer/director and Melbourne Festival managers should make sure that Lord Ganesh was not made a laughing stock in the process of pushing their respective agendas.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, pointed out that besides Festival managers; Australia Council for the Arts, Arts Victoria, and City of Melbourne; who supported this play; should also look at the play before it premiered on September 29 so that there was nothing hurtful to the feeling of devotees.

Rajan Zed has earlier argued that Lord Ganesh 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.

Its creator, internationally acclaimed “Back to Back Theatre”, itself calls it a “strange” fable, “rambunctious”. Describing the play, media release of co-presenter Malthouse Theatre says that Ganesh “seeks to go one-on-one with Hitler”. It is also described by some as “wildly inventive ride through history, where sacred icons and rituals become weapons” and “brimming with humour”.

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.

Bruce Galdwin directed “Ganesh Versus the Third Reich”, will be shown at Merlyn Theatre (The Malthouse) in Southbank (Victoria, Australia) from September 29 to October nine. Ticket prices are up to $58. It is also scheduled to be exhibited at the "5th World Summit on Arts and Culture" on October four.

Founded in 1987, Back to Back Theatre claims to be “one of Australia’s leading creative voices, focusing on moral, philosophical and political questions about the value of individual lives”. It states on its website: “The stories they create explore ‘the cold, dark side’ of our times…”. Headquartered in Geelong (Victoria), Peter Bridges is Chair of its Board, Bruce Gladwin the Artistic Director, and Alice Nash the Executive Producer. Over the last five years Back to Back has reportedly toured over 40 cities across the world and is said to be “one of Australia’s most globally recognised and respected contemporary theatre companies”.

Malthouse Theatre and Melbourne Festival are jointly presenting this play. Melbourne Festival, with Brett Sheehy as Artistic Director, claims to be one of Australia's flagship international arts festivals and one of the major multi-arts festivals of the world. Malthouse Theatre, with Marion Potts as Artistic Director, is a non-profit organization “dedicated to the development, production, and promotion of contemporary Australian theatre”. Victoria’s capital Melbourne is the second most populous city of Australia.

One of most widely worshipped deities in Hinduism; Lord Ganesh is regarded as god of wisdom and good luck, patron of learning and remover of obstacles, and invoked at the commencement of all undertakings. Hinduism is oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and moksh (liberation) is its ultimate goal.

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