Skip to content

Klum’s Kali costume turns Kryptonite

November 9, 2008

At a recent Halloween party in New York, Heidi Klum, the German super model drew flak from the self-righteous Hindu crowd for dressing up as Goddess Kali. Apparently, it seems, Heidi’s “flirting” with Hindu idols have caused quite a stir amongst the God community perched on top of the Himalayas, who were not only dismayed by Heidi’s irreverence but felt demeaned and desecrated by her ugly display. To warn and admonish Heidi for her public misconduct, the Gods have requested some self-appointed guardians of Hindu faith to talk to Heidi and demand a public apology from her. Here’s the blasphemous video.

 

 

Excerpts of the news article  from the Times of India is below

 Indian-American community leader Rajan Zed said, “Goddess Kali is highly revered in Hinduism and she is meant to be worshipped in temples and not to be used in clubs for publicity stunts or thrown around loosely for dramatic effect.”

“Hindus welcome Hollywood and other entertainment industries to immerse themselves in Hinduism, but they should take it seriously and respectfully and not just use the religion for decorating or to advance their selfish agenda,” Zad said in a statement.

Various other Hindu leaders, including Jawahar L Khurana from Hindu Alliance of India, and Bhavna Shinde of Hindu Janajagruti Samiti have also criticised Klum’s act of posing like Goddess Kali in a Halloween party, calling it “denigrating”, the website said.

 

Now, is it me, or does this incident sound eerily familiar to the issue of Islamic/Mohammad cartoons that sparked such huge international uproar and controversy a few years ago. After watching the video and reading the report, I failed to understand what the real issue or dress controversy was all about (unless the Hindus themselves were suffering from an inferiority complex and felt threatened and embarrased by the devilish image of Kali herself being a target of ridicule). But, I am always amazed at how the religious right tries to create issues out of non-issues as if they were waiting for a perfect opportunity to threaten and bully unsuspecting citizens and teach them a  lesson or two about proper conduct. 

It is even more ridiculous when theists, who claim God to be omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent, run to the aid of their Gods (criticizing and sometimes resorting to physical assaults, death threats and even actual murder) at the slightest hint of insult to their Gods or Religion. If God, really is “All Powerful”, as the theists claim, why can’t he/she take care of himself/herself ? Why can’t He pulverize these so-called religious offenders into oblivion? Why do humans, who by their own admission claim to be inferior, weak and mortal compared to the Gods, run to their protection? If God Himself is not too bothered about preserving his own exalted status in society. Isn’t it self-aggrandizing behaviour on our part to think that we can protect the Gods from harm. Doesn’t it sound like the ant protecting the elephant from falling into the well.

As for the controversy, I don’t see any reason to believe that Heidi wore that costume to deliberately “denigrate” Hinduism or use it as a “publicity stunt”. Au contraire, I think she was so infatuated (like some westerners who study eastern mysticism are) with her new found love and knowledge of Hinduism (no matter how meagre that may be, although I strongly suspect it to be Tantra ) that she wanted to show off her nouveaute to her friends. The costume was meant to be harmless fun and I don’t think she wanted to demean any of the Hindu Gods or was doing anything Hindus themselves don’t do.  In fact, I believe, that hindus should actually be praising Heidi Klum for using her high profile image to boost the popularity of Hindusim and bringing Kali to Holywood and conferring such a star status on her. Btw, when will the religious fanatics, who pretend to be the sole guardians of their faith, stop making rules of their own on the fly. Can Mr Zed point out to the Hindu religious text that says Kali is meant to be worshipped ONLY in temples or that Kali costumes cannot be worn anywhere. If Mr. Zed has ever travelled across India, he must have seen street acts with actors in Kali costumes during Navaratri or Kalipuja (in bengal). So how is Heidi’s wearing the Kali costume denigrating. Here’s a clip of such a street act.

 

 

 Also can Mr. Zed give us a clue what Heidi’s “selfish agenda” may have been. If Mr Zed is right, there must be lot of companies making a beeline to sign up Heidi for modelling contracts, especially after such a pretty makeup. Has Mr. Zed looked at the image of goddess Kali lately. I am sorry to break it to you Mr. Zed, but Kali is probably the most hideous of all the Hindu goddesses ( with the blood-soaked hanging tongue, the threatening scythe and the garland made of human skulls and all) and she resembles a female version of the grim reaper more than any Goddess. I wonder which ancient psycho came up with that image of Kali. An image like that can only evoke reverence from ignorant Hindus brainwashed into believing that she is a goddess, but to the outside world she is closer to the idea of a devil and an object of ridicule, rather than an image of a God. 

 

Hindus often claim that their religion is a religion of symbolism – Where Gods and their idols are not to be taken literally but are representations of certain attributes of nature or this universe. Now , this begs the question – what form of Godly attribute does Kali represent. Love? Compassion ? Non-violence ? I doubt if the answer is “Yes” to any of the questions.

To contradict themselves further, Hindus who claim their Gods to be nothing but symbols would immediately turn around and also claim (like most religious people elsewhere in the world) that God created humans in his/her own image. If that is true, how is it, that most Hindu Gods and Goddesses don’t even have a modicum of resemblance to the humans. Can anyone show me a person with numerous hands like Goddess Durga, Saraswati or Laxmi, or a person with an elephant’s head like Lord Ganesha or a semi-nude woman with a scythe dripping blood like Goddess Kali. And if that is not true, then either accept that God DID NOT create Humans in his/her own image or concede that these idols are not representations of Gods at all. In fact, I am sure a lot of women would find it a relief that Kali (if he/she exists that is) did not create them in her image. 

As a person born to a Hindu family, I am often ashamed to admit that Hindus consider such a diabolical image as a  goddess. If non-Hindus and westerners treat Hindus with such contempt, the Hindus have no one to blame but themselves for perpetuating such fiendish images of Gods. If the new generation of Hindu kids growing up in different parts of the world are embarrassed to admit their Hindu heritage and culture in public and are disowning their religion, the Hindus have only themselves to blame for the wanton lack of decency and mordernity in their religious practices. If the Hindus find themselves increasingly under that attack of christian missionaries and Islamic imams for their primitive rituals and diabolical images of Gods, then they can only point to themselves as the cause.

The Hindus take great pride in themselves for belonging to an ancient and civilized culture but when we look at the image of goddess Kali, I cannot help but disagree. The same Hindus who would comment on the “uncultured” and “primitive” lifestyles and rituals of scantily clad native African and Indian tribes (while stumbling upon them on Discovery or National Geographic channels), would start quoting scriptures, cursing and angrily defending the attributes of the blood-soaked, semi-nude image of goddess Kali. If that’s not being disingenuous, I don’t know what is. 

Some websites devoted to Kali claim,  that praying to Kali helps triumph over evil,  exterminate inauspicious souls and terminate demons of our character. She is claimed to obliterate the devils of ignorance, alleviate the gloom and enlighten the Divinal purity in humans. I don’t know about you but that sounds like a LOOOAD of bullshit to me !! Thousand year-old fantasies are fine as long as they are relegated and confined to children’s books, but when adults start attributing imaginary virtues to fictitious characters, using mythic stories as veritable proof of the nature of God and defending them fervently, then that impedes rational thought and evolution of humans as a species. I can also claim that offering prayers to my pet chimpanzee every day helps me triumph over evil, but that would be just my own delusive imagination, not reality by a long shot.

To sugarcoat and reason that the image of Kali is such since she signifies “death and destruction of evil” or “Shakti-the primordial energy, the source of everything in this universe” is no reason at all. Why would we want to pray to this energy ? Primitive men, devoid of scientific knowledge and for fear of the fury of nature used to believe that God resided in everything in nature and somehow could be appeased by praying. Isn’t it somehow primitive thinking on our part to pray to these forces of nature or this so-called “primordial energy”? And, why would we want to worship death and destruction of evil anyway? if we have to pray, wouldn’t it be far better to pray for Love and compassion and prevent evil from entering our hearts in the first place. If a creator God has indeed created evil on this earth, how much help can we expect from Him/Her in eradicating it. But, if the creator God couldn’t prevent the evil from this earth in the first place, what makes us think that he/she will be able to prevent it now. Did evil sneak in into the hearts of humans when God was not looking ? That wouldn’t speak very highly of this omniscient, omnipotent God, would it ? And, to say that God did not create evil but Satan did (the typical Christian line of reasoning) means that there are entities in this world who can not only create objects/virtues  on their own but apparently didn’t need the help or permission of this ‘All Powerful’ God.

 So coming back to the controversy I do not think it was improper on Heidi’s part to wear the Kali costume. Fortunately, she lives in a free country where she is free to wear whatever she wants and  where the word “Freedom” does mean something other than empty promises by politicians. Reverence is a personal choice and just because a person or group reveres some character, does not make it binding on all humanity to show their respect for that entity also.  Respect earned using fear tactics, emotional blackmail, ostracization or blind dogmatic edicts is not respect at all. It is a sham. If respect is to be asked, it should be done with humility, compassion and through the impartation of knowledge and reason. Only then can there be actual and mutual respect.

 

 

——— @@@———–@@@————–

Click to read a random post from this blog

——— @@@———–@@@————–

Advertisements
23 Comments leave one →
  1. amanda permalink
    December 1, 2008 6:41 am

    the reason why (and i’m speaking personally from my buddhist faith.. in which hinduism and buddhism are mirrored off of the same beliefs) it may look like a double standard to some is that, the gods and goddess are not supposed to be taken as an “actual” living thing. it is a manifestation of the creator of our world. a lot of hindus (now this isnt all but a large population do) believe that it is improper to display tattoos/ adornments/ or even costumes pertaining to the gods because it is deemed as disrespectful. highly respected gods are meant to be worshiped in privacy and in temples.. it is also deemed in buddhism that if you rely on figures or statues of religious figures too much. meaning having a false security in the statue it is also deemed improper. the gods and goddess of all hindu and buddhist beliefs are very sacred just like mohammad is to islam and it makes the community believe that they are taken as a joke. i have considered adorning myself with hindu gods as tattoos.. when i learned that it can be deemed harshly in such ways i changed my mind. now im just thinking about getting om mani padme um on my arm or shoulder blade. the gods are not literal. most hindus and even buddhist believe that we are all capable of being gods. human life is the closest connection to nirvana (heaven) and tho buddhist try to brake the cycle of rebirth.. and hindus do more to educate and obtain certain goals each cycle of life. they both agree on their gods being adorned in ways that provoke ego and not what they are originally made to do..

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      December 6, 2008 8:59 pm

      Amanda..Thanks for your comments but I don’t know where u r getting your facts. There is nothing in the hindu religion which says that gods are meant to be worshipped only in temples. In fact it is often encouraged that you pray God internally, and you communicate with God through meditation in the privacy of your homes or somewhere private. In fact many of the great Hindu sages mediated in forests or mountains away from temples or any human contact. The ban on tatoos and adornments are imposed by autocratic hindu authorities and not by Hinduism itself. In India you will see a lot of people with the symbol OM tatooed on their arms or wrists. So how is it OK to adorn yourself with a sacred symbol and not with a religious figure, both of which are sacred? How is it Ok to paint images of gods on paper or on walls and not on the human body ? WHat is the logic behind that. How does painting an image of God on our bodies provoke ego can you please tell me? I don’t think ego is a bad thing to have, but even if we assume it to be true any image painted anywhere can provoke the ego. Why just the human body? Thats just an assumption passed on, as if it is a rule. I understand that you have the curiosity and but I hope you can critically think about all the “rules” that religious leaders pass down on us.

      I would have loved to write more, but my inernet connection may not last that long. I hope we can continue our discussion later. Good luck.

  2. Rabidly Hindu permalink
    February 1, 2009 2:11 pm

    Hey Nit Wit! Have you ever heard the term: “bhav”? And no, it doesn’t just mean ‘price’. It means sentiment. Hinduism & Hindus will tolerate any depiction of their religious motifs or deities so long as the ‘bhav’ is respectful. Which wasn’t in Heidi’s case. Just so you can better understand what I’m trying to say, you may have noticed last year’s calendars with Hindu deities’ images consigned to trash with even people walking over them and what not. Same goes for wedding invitation cards, or other print representations. And we (Hindus) don’t find that objectionable because we realise that these are just images, not the object of our worship. But, at the same time we also realise when our deities are being mocked, being all “adults” to use your definition of adults. Like Maqbool Fida Husain being a “great” painter and all painted only Hindu deities insultingly, no representation of Mohd. here.

    • nitwitnastik permalink
      February 1, 2009 7:06 pm

      @Rabidly Hindu

      Well that is your interpretation or assumption of Heidi’s ‘bhav’ and bhav itself is very subjective. I don’t think she was disrespectful. Can you prove that Heidi was disrespectful from the way she acted or what she said? I didn’t find anything to that effect in the video. Why is it that anytime a white christian woman dresses up as a Hindu deity, it is interpreted as disrespectful ?

      Moreover, just because the Hindus respect some idol or God, doesn’t make it binding on all humanity to respect it also. For example, Varuna was considered as the God of Water in later vedic periods. Does that mean no one can speak about water pollution or use water to wash our feet as the ‘bhav’ would be that of disrespecting Varuna ? Does that mean that we can never criticize a bad book as that could be interpreted as disrespecting Saraswati, who is considered the Godess of knowledge?

      I hope you can think about them and then draw your own conclusions.

  3. Rick Cain permalink
    February 3, 2009 1:36 pm

    Its common to see folks dressed as jesus, moses, god (some creativity is demanded of that), and joseph and mary all the time and christians generally don’t seem to care.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      February 3, 2009 1:47 pm

      @Rick

      Yep, thats exactly what I am talking about. Why should anyone be above ridicule or criticism ?

  4. March 11, 2009 10:44 am

    Another thing I find very funny about these “rabid” Hindus is how they suddenly claim it is an image of their deity. DO they not know, being from good ritual following Hindu families, that an idol, even one that is worshiped cannot be worshiped unless its “praan pratishtha” is carried out. The “praan pratishtha” being a religious invocation to said deity to inhabit that image, without which the idol is just an idol- and hence not representative of divinity- which is why Hindu idols can be of any form. Now most practicing( and rabidly if I may add) Hindus do no know this. Yet they complain. To create a nuisance mostly.
    I also wonder why it takes an atheist to point out to them how little they know of what they rush to defend.

  5. RGB permalink
    April 13, 2009 12:35 pm

    “Now, is it me, or does this incident sound eerily familiar to the issue of Islamic/Mohammad cartoons that sparked such huge international uproar and controversy a few years ago.”

    The difference between the two incidents is that Zed’s protest was peaceful and he did not incite violence nor did he announce a reward for the murder of Klum.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      April 13, 2009 12:49 pm

      Yes that’s true but it’s only a difference in degree. The point I was trying to make however was that like the Islamic fundamentalists, Zed was also protesting against freedom of speech and expression. That’s the similarity I was pointing out.

      And frankly, I have been following Zed for some time now and I think if he had enough support from hindus and if hindus really were that vocal or militant in their protests, it wouldn’t take too much for him to transform into a hindu ayatollah khomeini.

      • RGB permalink
        April 13, 2009 1:52 pm

        Zed has freedom of speech as well. If his sentiments were offended, he has a right to protest peacefully. As long as he is not imposing his will, it should be fine. The manner of his protest makes the whole incident entirely different.

        • nitwitnastik permalink*
          April 13, 2009 3:01 pm

          RGB, yes, I agree with you that everyone has a right to protest peacefully but here Zed *did* try to impose his will. Maybe you can google Rajan Zed and check how many people he has asked for a public apology for hurting Hindu religious sentiments in the last few months. Isn’t asking for a public apology from someone (in certain cases creating media pressure), who is expressing his/her freedom of expression and speech peacefully, imposing one’s will on that person ? Isn’t it like saying – “this is the way I want you to behave and speak and if you don’t, you better apologize to me for daring to hurt my sentiments ?” For example, If someone dresses up as like Laloo Prasad Yadav and even makes fun of him and someone from Bihar comes up to that person and asks him for an apology because it hurt his state-sentiments, would you say that he is not imposing his will ? His protest may be within his right but will you support his cause (then we should ask every comedian in India for an apology 🙂 )?

          Not all protests are the same. When a protest encroaches on someone else’s right I feel it is not OK – no matter how peaceful it is. In my post, I was not pointing out the method of protest (peaceful or violent) but the basic premise of such a protest – that of imposing one’s will on others and curbing others’ freedom of speech and expression. But then again it’s just my opinion and we can agree to disagree, if you feel he was justified.

          • Kaffir permalink
            April 13, 2009 4:14 pm

            So, basically, Hindus should bend over backwards to accommodate others, and Hindus should never get offended over any depiction of their religion in US societies and media that may perpetuate stereotypes about Hindus, or induce shame in some ignorant Hindus? 😉

            How’s your approach any different than the double-standards in India where Muslims are given full freedom to protest, whereas Hindus aren’t? I hope you can see the double standards in your position.

  6. Kaffir permalink
    April 13, 2009 4:09 pm

    “As a person born to a Hindu family, I am often ashamed to admit that Hindus consider such a diabolical image as a goddess. If non-Hindus and westerners treat Hindus with such contempt, the Hindus have no one to blame but themselves for perpetuating such fiendish images of Gods. If the new generation of Hindu kids growing up in different parts of the world are embarrassed to admit their Hindu heritage and culture in public and are disowning their religion, the Hindus have only themselves to blame for the wanton lack of decency and mordernity in their religious practices.”

    Let me ask you two questions.

    1. Do you consider yourself a Hindu?
    2. How much time have you spent exploring Hindu philosophy and trying to understand it with an open mind? How does that time+effort compare to time+effort spent reading and understanding about Islam? Or Christianity?

    You might also want to explore a bit about the framework you use to look at Hinduism, and what terms you use, and whether they express the same acts and concepts in Hinduism (God, prayer, priest etc.). “The Heathen in his Blindness” is a good book that discusses some of these issues.

    I’m also a bit surprised that you’d want your view (that Hindus shouldn’t worship Goddess Kali) to be imposed on others. How is that liberal or progressive, as long as no one forces you to worship Kali? If others find some meaning of Shakti or destruction of evil, then so be it. There’s a philosophical framework for those concepts, which, going by your posts, I’d think you’re unaware of. You could at least start with reading the story of Kali.

    If Hindus reject their symbols without even making an attempt to understand them and hold them in contempt because of Western influence, or out of ignorance, or because it’s shameful being a Hindu while living in the US, then Hindus have no one to blame but themselves if non-Hindus and Westerners treat their symbols with contempt.

  7. RGB permalink
    April 13, 2009 8:12 pm

    “here Zed *did* try to impose his will. Maybe you can google Rajan Zed and check how many people he has asked for a public apology for hurting Hindu religious sentiments in the last few months.”
    We differ in our opinion. I do not think asking for an apology constitutes imposing one’s will. I know he routinely asks for apologies. It may be a publicity grabbing exercise.But thats hardly a crime.

    “Isn’t it like saying – “this is the way I want you to behave and speak and if you don’t, you better apologize to me for daring to hurt my sentiments ? “
    But he has not taken any step to force her to apologize. Nor has he said he will take any action if the apology is not forthcoming. She can just ignore his request for the apology.

    ” His protest may be within his right but will you support his cause (then we should ask every comedian in India for an apology 🙂 )?”
    I may not support his cause but I support his right to protest and ask for an apology peacefully.

    When a protest encroaches on someone else’s right I feel it is not OK – no matter how peaceful it is.”
    I do not think the protest encroached her right. She wear the costume again if she wants to. He has not stopped her from doing that. He probably will just issue another statement asking for apology.

    ” the basic premise of such a protest – that of imposing one’s will on others and curbing others’ freedom of speech and expression”
    I do not think an appeal for apology is an imposition of one’s will on another person.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      April 13, 2009 9:27 pm

      @ RGB,

      That is fine. We can have differences in opinion about what constitutes imposing one’s will on others. Not all will is imposed through violent means or protests like the ones by muslims in UK. Some can also be done through creating pressure through the media and negative campaign. And I think when we protest against someone doing something which is in his/her right, that does constitute an attempt to stop that person from doing it again. Whether an attempt to stop a person from doing something which is within his/her right encroaches on the other person’s right is a question we probably need to ask ourselves.

  8. RGB permalink
    April 14, 2009 3:27 pm

    I agree not all will is imposed through violent means. Most of the times it is done by pressure like when Arun Gandhi had to resign due to his views on Holocaust.

    But we do not live in a bubble and hence one’s actions can cause offense to someone else. The question is where do we draw the line with respect to legitimate protest. For me any protest devoid of violence or any threat of violence is acceptable.

  9. Kaffir permalink
    April 15, 2009 11:21 am

    “And I think when we protest against someone doing something which is in his/her right, that does constitute an attempt to stop that person from doing it again.”

    But isn’t that part of give-and-take in any civil society? I doubt that a society is possible where everyone completely agrees with everyone else, and everyone subscribes to one point-of-view (which is the only way to avoid any conflict) without any diversity. It’s all part of negotiation, as long as there’s a balance of power between the negotiating parties, and the protests are not accompanied by violence or threats of violence.

  10. Kaffir permalink
    April 15, 2009 11:22 am

    I think RGB has got it correct.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      April 15, 2009 9:17 pm

      @kaffir and RGB

      I have posted my thoughts on this as a post on my blog. We can continue this discussion there.

      @kaffir

      I have been a bit busy of late and will try to answer your other comments when I get some time.

  11. marv permalink
    October 13, 2009 10:40 pm

    not sure if heidis act can be deemed insulting..but i think every person has the right to express his or her anger or opine if a sentiment they staunchly follow has been offended..

    if people can protest for potraying cavemen as fools in geico ad then am sure hindus protesting for westerners using hinduism in a bad way is totally agreeable…

    very similar to how furious u wuld be if they used a picture of ur beloved ones in a porno website…

  12. Shreya permalink
    November 1, 2010 3:24 am

    Hi
    I read your blog! I have no issues with Heidi wearing Kali costume! Many Hindus would agree with me, we are amused if not anything else! Most westerners take to Hinduism like kids, without understanding the intricacies of it! Anyways, what Heidi did was kiddish! and she did it well! The costume was aesthetically made…….Mother Kali is supposed to look very scary and Heidi has carried it off well, I have not looked at the video but atleast the snaps look good!

    What I find more disturbing is the disrespect you have for other people’s thoughts!Regarding the image of Mother Kali (since you spoke badly about it )
    Mother Kali, is the destructor of evil! She took form to kill the demons who were harming the good people! That is how the belief goes, so all the heads that are dangling around her and the hands are of the the demons and bad people! She did not kill one good soul! So she represents the idea of good over evil! And you know what, it also goes without saying that good people when pushed beyond their limit of tolerance will fight! The serene form of mother Kali is Durga! So if you see Maa Durga ,the images are all nice and serene. The image of Kali is when she has gone around on a killing spree, she has killed so many that she has lost her sense and is almost mad! Thats the image! If you can understand!You know once she was done killing the bad people…….she was stopped by lord Shiva and then she regained her serene form! Its a symbolic representation of a concept!

    Whether you believe or not, it is your choice but please restrain from making fun without understanding the belief! I do not expect you to understand, its too complicated.

    If you cannot grasp the idea do not blame others and do not use other people’s innocent acts (Heidi Kulm’s) to spew out your bitterness!

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      November 19, 2010 12:51 pm

      Thanks Shreya for your omments…You assume of course that I do not know any of that…please read my bio..I used to be a devout hindu for more than 3 decades..can you please let me know why I shouldn’t be making fun of things I find funny which others might not..

Trackbacks

  1. To Answer A Few Comments « Nitwit Nastik

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: