The Attack on Lord Ganesha: Why it Happened

Paul Courtright, Professor and Interim Chair of the Department of Religion at Emory University (Atlanta, Georgia, U.S.A.), recently reprinted a book entitled, Ganesa: Lord of Obstacles, Lord of Beginnings. This book contains highly obscene psychoanalytical interpretations of the origin and symbolism of this most revered, respected, and beloved of Hindu deities. His shocking undressing of Ganesha while narrating a scurrilous story of sex, phallic symbolism, and incestuous relationships is nothing but a malicious attack. In so doing, Prof. Courtright exhibited appalling anti-Hindu insensitivity.

The Hindu American Foundation (HAF), preparing to launch as a non-affiliated voice for Hindu Americans, firmly believes that the misinterpretations perpetuated by Prof. Courtright, and some of his colleagues, humiliate Hindus, ridicule and devalue Hindu beliefs and symbols, promote hatred and intolerance towards Hindus, and ultimately create a climate where attacks on Hindu "pagans" or "infidels" and their institutions increase. Indeed, attacks on Hindus and Hindu temples are steadily increasing. HAF fully supports the Constitutional guarantee of freedom of speech. However, academic integrity requires an appreciation of the beliefs and sentiments of the billion Hindus that practice the religion that he and others in academia view as exotic abstractions.

We’ve encapsulated the debate within academia and the wide-ranging analysis of the context in which such attacks occur as recently published by Rajiv Malhotra on the Indian webzine sulekha.com.

HAF is pleased that the publisher of the reprint has ceased publication and distribution of the book. However, to this date, Prof. Courtright has not acknowledged that his Freudian analytic methodology has been widely discredited by other noted scholars. Dr. Courtright has also not acknowledged that no Hindu sampradaya (religious tradition) accepts his obscene sexual interpretations of Ganesha – they see his interpretations as erroneous at best and gratuitously malicious at worst.