A Hindu organization has a big issue with the Peabody Essex Museum in Salem, citing some toys sold in the gift shop are considered to be insulting. 
But museum officials say the toys are more of a celebration of culture, and noted an Indian-American family created the toys in question.
Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, president of Universal Society of Hinduism, said the gift shop at the museum had been selling plush toys featuring Hindu deities Krishna, Ganesh and Hanuman. The toys are also sold at Wal-Mart, on Amazon and at other online retailers. 
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“Lord Krishna, Lord Ganesh and Lord Hanuman were greatly revered in Hinduism and were meant to be worshipped in temples or home shrines and not to be thrown around loosely on the floor, bathrooms, cars, etc,” Zed stated, adding it is wrong to attach the deities “to your baby’s diaper bag” or “press its belly to make it sing for you.” 
The museum issued a statement Tuesday, explaining, “PEM’s (Peabody Essex Museum) connection to India spans more than 200 years, and the museum is honored to care for a renowned collection of contemporary and historical artworks that celebrate the beauty, diversity, and complexity of the country. Visitors can experience this work on view in the museum’s recently installed South Asian Galleries and through publications, special exhibitions, and public programming opportunities that strive to make meaningful connections across time, geography, and culture. 
“The PEM shop carries a line of products created by Modi Toys, a company founded by an Indian-American family that seeks to stay connected with their Indian roots by creating modern toys and books inspired by ancient Hindu culture. (Modi Toys are available widely, and the PEM Shop is not an exclusive retailer). The museum and the (gift shop) celebrate forms of creative expression from around the world with the aim of expanding peoples’ understanding of themselves and the wider world.”
Avani Modi Sarkar, co-founder of Modi Toys, also chimed in on the controversy.
“My brother and I founded Modi Toys to spark curiosity in our own children about our Hindu culture and foster a connection to our Indian heritage,” he said. “Over the past four years, tens of thousands of families globally have brought our products into their homes for not only the same reasons, but for reasons beyond our wildest imaginations. 
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“The parents of a 4-year-old son, who was hospitalized for three months battling cancer, had our Baby Ganesh and Baby Hanuman by his side the entire time. A mother to a newborn baby, who was rushed to NICU, sought comfort in Baby Ganesh. A woman, undergoing infertility treatments, found strength in Durga Devi to keep going. It wasn’t our plush toys that brought them comfort or joy in times of need, it was their faith. 
“Our toys allow families to channel their beliefs, however they choose to practice it. And if that choice is one built on friendship, respect and reverence towards a higher power, then we’ll consider it our honor to be a small part of it. Ultimately, our hope is to make our culture easily accessible for those who want to preserve it. While we understand not all will agree with our approach, we take pride in knowing we are giving families an option to learn and practice Hinduism in a fun and a functional manner.”
According to the PEM, “The roots of the Peabody Essex Museum date to the 1799 founding of the East India Marine Society, an organization of Salem captains and supercargoes who had sailed beyond either the Cape of Good Hope or Cape Horn. The society’s charter included a provision for the establishment of a ‘cabinet of natural and artificial curiosities,’ which is what we today would call a museum. Society members brought to Salem a diverse collection of objects from the northwest coast of America, Asia, Africa, Oceania, India and elsewhere. By 1825, the society moved into its own building, East India Marine Hall.”


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