Santa hat on Hindu God sparks online row

  • Tali Gabai-Maiato,front, (Photograph by Akil Simmons)

    Tali Gabai-Maiato,front, (Photograph by Akil Simmons)


A Christmas row erupted after a yoga studio used an image of a Hindu God wearing a Santa hat on its December newsletter.

Lucky Elephant yoga studio was criticised after it used a photograph of Ganesha, a prominent God in the Hindu pantheon who has the head of an elephant and also known as Ganesh, wearing a Santa hat on the online newsletter’s cover.

Anjali Bhalla, who posted the image on Facebook and who appeared to come from a Hindu background, said: “This is offensive. Blatant. Disrespectful. And they don’t care.”

Ms Bhalla added: “I commented, admittedly rudely at first. I edited my comment. No one bothered to respond. In fact it was deleted.

She said: “I’ve no idea if this is a good place to learn ... I do know that what you put forth is important.”

The Monday Facebook post on Maj’s List attracted 226 comments, many in support of Ms Bhalla, before the thread was closed after Tali Gabai-Maiato, the owner of the Hamilton studio, replied to the complaint.

The studio said yesterday that Ms Gabai-Maiato was off the island and not available for comment.

But she wrote on Facebook on Thursday: “Guys — absolutely no offence was meant by putting a Santa hat on Ganesh.

“We are aware of what Ganesh symbolises and that’s why we named our studio after him.”

She added: “Sometimes we put flowers and malas on him too depending on the occasion and season.”

Ms Gabai-Maiato said: “I’ve chosen not to comment on any of these posts for a number of reasons.

“Mostly, I have no interest in getting into a public argument. I’m always happy to have a friendly discourse via private message or even in person.”

She added: “Our studio is a welcoming environment for hundreds of people. We also donate countless hours and funds to charities. While we are a business, it’s not just cultural appropriation for cash as this thread would lead everyone to believe.”

But Ms Bhalla replied: “The path to hell is paved with good intentions. I respect that you chose to answer. Why couldn’t you have answered the comments on the post to begin with instead of deleting them?

“Thank you for contributing to our community. Sometimes putting malas and flowers on ‘him’, however, does not negate the disrespect.

“I posted because it affects me. And others. Please take this into consideration as you progress your for profit business forward.

“And oh, yeah, I dare you to try to pull this s**t in Delhi or Toronto or Manchester.”

Ms Bhalla could not be contacted for comment yesterday.

A woman who answered the phone at Lucky Elephant yesterday said: “I believe that Tali has taken down the Facebook post.”

She added: “It’s best I don’t say too much, because it’s not my place to say anything.”

Ganesha, who has been worshipped by Hindus since as early as the 2nd century, is one of the religion’s most popular deities.

The deity is revered as a remover of obstacles, as well as the patron of arts and sciences and the god of intellect and wisdom. Ganesha is also used as a patron of letters and learning.

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Published Dec 7, 2019 at 8:00 am (Updated Dec 7, 2019 at 3:53 pm)

Santa hat on Hindu God sparks online row

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