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Row over Gayatri Mantra at US fashion show
Arun Venugopal | April 29, 2005 16:22 IST
The producer of a fashion show that incorporated the Gayatri Mantra says she will not apologise to Hindus in Houston, where the show took place.
The show took place on the eve of iFest, an international festival that is held annually in Houston. India was the theme of the event this year.
Anu Srivastav claims that she meant no disrespect by using the mantra, which provoked members of the audience to disrupt the show.
She said it was common for producers to incorporate such chants into shows.
The local chapter of the Vishwa Hindu Parishad has issued a statement protesting the show and calling for an apology from Srivastav.
"Doing a fashion show using the Gayatri Mantra, which is regarded as one of the most sacred mantras, is an insult to our Hindu brothers and sisters all over Houston and the world," stated the release issued by chapter secretary Girish Naik.
"The Houston chapter of Vishwa Hindu Parishad of America asks both the organiser and the choreographer to give a written apology to all the Hindus in our local ethnic newspapers and to agree not to use the Gayatri Mantra or any other mantras in the background for any of their fashion shows. Failure to do so will lead Hindus to take serious action against the organisation and the organisers."
The event took place on April 22 in downtown Houston. Some visitors objected to it during the event and one of them told Srivastav not use the music at a repeat performance of the show at a Mayor's Gala the same evening.
The music was changed for the Mayor's Gala, but Srivastav claims that it was not meant to be an apology.
"We did not remove that song because we accepted that it was wrong," she said. "There's only one reason, and that is we're here to help the festival showcase India to an audience made of much more than just Indians. The Mayor's Gala was a fundraiser for a good cause. There are people who had spent large amounts of money to support that cause, and I did not want any of them to think they had wasted their money. I was concerned that this group of people would misbehave in a public setting and once again cause embarrassment for the Indian community."
She denied that any of the models were dressed provocatively, as protesters had suggested, and said that any whistling was done as a show of support by members of the audience, some of whom were married to or involved with the models.
"The girls were wearing salwar kurtas, saris and lehngas," said Srivastav. "These are clothes of India. In my opinion, nothing was wrong with them. And I would not hesitate to use that song again."
She added that it is common for fashion show producers to use the Gayatri Mantra and other Hindu chants at shows in Mumbai and New York.
Srivastav characterised the behavior of the protesters as harassment.
"They were threatening to burn down the place," she said.
"They said, 'we will take care of you if you don't do XYZ.' It was completely uncivilised behavior. These are grown men who are jumping around. There's a proper way to handle conflicts. You can speak about it in a calm manner. There were six to eight men, all older than I am, who kind of came after me. They were yelling and speaking disrespectfully," she said.