At Hindu Mahasabha Durga Puja, a Mahishasur Which Looks 'Similar to' Mahatma Gandhi

The Hindu Mahasabha claimed to have changed the idol on Kolkata Police's request and "put moustache and hair" on it.

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Kolkata: A south Kolkata Durga Puja organised by the Hindu Mahasabha shows the demon king Mahishasur – being slain by the goddess Durga – as a bald, bespectacled, dhoti-clad man, similar in appearance to Mahatma Gandhi. The organisation has claimed that the resemblance is coincidental.

Idols in Durga Puja pandals traditionally show the goddess driving a spear into a Mahishasur who is represented as a figure of rage or one displaying contrition. The Mahishasur is also usually shown with wild hair, large eyes and a muscular build – almost entirely ruling out accidental similarities with Gandhi.

While this is not the first time that the Mahishasur has been made to resemble real life human figures, the discovery of the depiction took place on October 2 – Gandhi’s birth anniversary – and received widespread outrage on social media.

The image was first tweeted by journalist Indradeep Bhattacharyya, who later deleted the tweet citing that he had been instructed to do so by Kolkata Police who feared it might create tension amidst the festivities.

Soon afterwards, Bengali television news channels began showing the pandal and the idol.

A police complaint was eventually lodged against the Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha.

“The Durga idol that was worshipped here initially had a Mahisasur whose face looked similar to that of Mahatma Gandhi. The similarities are just a coincidence. After photos of it went viral, a police team visited the marquee and asked us to change the face,” Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha state working President Chandrachur Goswami told the news agency PTI.

“The police asked us to change it, and we obliged. We put a moustache and hair on Mahishasur’s idol,” he told PTI.

To Indian Express, Goswami sought to explain other perceived dissimilarities. He also said that Gandhi needs to be “criticised.”

“See the asura is also holding a dhal (shield). Gandhi never held a dhal. It is coincidental that our asura whom Maa Durga is killing, looks like Gandhi. Many people said it looks like Gandhi. However, it is also true that Gandhi needs to be criticised,” he told the news outlet.

All opposition parties, the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Bengal chapter of the Hindu Mahasabha condemned the depiction.

“We don’t support what Akhil Bharatiya Hindu Mahasabha did. We condemn it. We too had differences with Gandhi ji’s views, but this is not a way to protest against it,” said Sandip Mukherjee, president of the Bangiya Parishad Hindu Mahasabha.

Trinamool Congress and the BJP also slammed the depiction of Gandhi.

The ruling Trinamool Congress state spokesperson Kunal Ghosh said if this was really done, it was “nothing but sacrilege.”

“It is an insult to the Father of Nation. It is an insult to every citizen of the country. What would the BJP say about such an insult? We know the assassin of Gandhiji belonged to which ideological camp,” Ghosh added.

The state BJP distanced itself from the representation.

“If such a move had been made, it is unfortunate. We condemn it. This is in poor taste,” BJP state president Sukanta Majumdar told reporters.

The CPI(M) observed the Sangh Parivar’s role in colonial history.

“This is the BJP and this is the Sangh Parivar. They only know how to divide the nation. They consider anti-British forces as ‘asura’ and British (colonial British during pre-independence period) as Maa Durga,” said Samik Lahiri, member of the CPI(M) central committee told Indian Express.

This year, on January 31, Mahatma Gandhi’s death anniversary, the Hindu Mahasabha made news for having paid tribute to his assassin Nathuram Godse and a co-accused in the Gandhi murder trial, Narayan Apte, in Madhya Pradesh’s Gwalior by observing “Godse-Apte Smriti Diwas”.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday paid homage to Mahatma Gandhi on his birth anniversary, and urged everyone to purchase khadi and handicraft products as a tribute to him.

On Sunday, Congress’s Rahul Gandhi, in the course of his Bharat Jodo Yatra, said, “The ideology that killed Gandhi has delivered inequality, divisiveness and erosion of hard-won freedoms in last eight years.”