Call for council to pull Edinburgh International Festival funding over play accused of 'trivialising' Hinduism

A Hindu society is urging Edinburgh City Council to halt funding to the Edinburgh International Festival (EIF) for allowing what they claim is a “collaboration in the mockery of Hindu gods.”

Jaimini-Jethwa, Hindu Times (Photo: Ross-Fraser-McLean/ EIF).
Jaimini-Jethwa, Hindu Times (Photo: Ross-Fraser-McLean/ EIF).

Rajan Zed, president of the Universal Society of Hinduism, has urged Lord Provost Frank Ross and Council Leader Adam McVey to “seriously revise“ the council’s funding of the EIF over what he claims is a “disrespectful and belittling depiction of Hindu gods“ in the festival.

It comes after Mr Zed asked the EIF to drop “highly inappropriate” play Hindu Times from their programme, calling it a ‘trivialising’ portrayal of the Hindu deities Brahma, Vishnu and Lakshmi.

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The play – which is to be performed as part of the festival at The Lyceum in Edinburgh in August – follows the life of Hindu gods Vishnu and Brahma who incarnate as two local ‘wide boys’ in Dundee.

Written by Jaimini Jethwa and directed by Caitlin Skinner, the play claims to bring to life a story of love and restoration, as two Hindu deities suddenly find themselves in the city to save Lakshmi.

The gods swear in the play and director Jethwa has said that they possess ‘the gift of the gab’ during their ‘boozy night’ out in Dundee.

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Mr Zed said: “Lord Brahma, Lord Vishnu and goddess Lakshmi were meant to be worshipped in temples and home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely or dragged around unnecessarily through the streets of Dundee reportedly looking for booze and breaking into a closed shop for it.

"Hindus are for free artistic expression and speech as much as anybody else if not more. But faith is something sacred and attempts at trivialising it hurt the adherents.

"Besides hurting the sentiments, any misrepresentation creates confusion among non-Hindus about Hinduism.”

Speaking about her play in the Guardian last year, Director Jethwa said: “I wanted to explore the duality of man and how it manifests in what he loves and fights for.

“My family is from Porbandar, the same village as Mahatma Gandhi. I went back there and stood in Gandhi’s house with its portrait of his mother, her eyes steady, fixed on where he was born, with all the gods around.

"It made me recognise who my deities were growing up in Dundee – those folks in the schemes. This is where my spiritual home is, Scotland. It gave me the idea to bring the Hindu gods to Dundee.”

In a statement, producing and presenting companies behind the play said: “As producers and presenters of Hindu Times, we, the Edinburgh International Festival, Dundee Rep, The Royal Lyceum Theatre Edinburgh and Pitlochry Festival Theatre acknowledge the concerns expressed about the religious references.

"We are in constructive discussions about the work's content, which is still in development.

"There is no intention to present a work that is in any way derogatory and we continue to take the community's feedback seriously, whilst also supporting the need for artistic expression.”

Mr Zed is also urging other EIF funders, partners and supporters such as the Scottish Government, the UK Government, and the University of Edinburgh to think about pulling their support of EIF if the festival continues to deny removing the play.

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