, Salem, MA

February 26, 2013

Painting in PEM exhibit called 'disrespectful'


---- — SALEM — A Hindu activist who took on Comedy Central host Stephen Colbert last year has asked the Peabody Essex Museum to remove a “disrespectful” painting from a current exhibit on modern Indian art.

Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism, criticized the “Ganapati the Warrior” painting in the exhibition “Midnight to the Boom: Painting in India After Independence.”

He said the 1977 painting is a “disrespectful and inappropriate” depiction of Lord Ganesha, a Hindu deity.

A spokeswoman for the Peabody Essex Museum stressed that the painting is by a Hindu artist and is not meant to be disrespectful — quite the opposite.

“It isn’t meant to be a reflection on the deity, but more on business-minded devotees of the deity who are more interested in wealth than in religion or morality,” April Swieconek said.

The museum does not plan to remove the painting.

“We obviously stand by our artist,” Swieconek said. “There won’t be any change to the show.”

Last year, Zed asked Colbert, a TV humorist, to issue a public apology for a report on the Democratic National Convention that included what Zed considered an unflattering depiction of Hindus, according to published reports.

He also recently demanded that an online game company remove Hindu gods from a new action game.

In a press release on the PEM exhibit, Zed said Lord Ganesha was “meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely in reimagined versions for dramatic effects or other agendas.”

Tom Dalton can be reached at