A Charleston yoga and brewery business is coming under fire for a logo that Hindu leaders say is an inappropriate usage of one of their faith’s deities.
In response, the owner plans to tweak it.
Rajan Zed — who leads the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism — called on Charleston-based Bendy Brewski Yoga to apologize and change its emblem, which features an elephant sitting crisscrossed, clutching a beer with its trunk.
Zed said it depicts Lord Ganesh, a Hindu god known as the Remover of Obstacles and who is often recognized by its elephant head, broken tusk, and human body. In his statement Tuesday, Zed said pairing a deity with an alcoholic beverage was very disrespectful.
Beth Cosi is the owner and founder of Bendy Brewski, a yoga group that invites guests to perform exercises and sip beer afterward. About 300 guests attend these yoga classes each month in breweries across the city, Cosi said.
Cosi said most customers — and Charleston area residents — don’t have Hindu ties and simply see the emblem as “an elephant with a beer in its trunk.”
But Cosi, aware of yoga’s Indian and Hindu roots, said she’s always viewed the emblem privately as a reminder of the deity. She said she meant no offense.
“I never in any way want to trivialize or be insensitive to any peoples, their belief systems and soul practices or icons," she said. "If you met me, you’d know this instantly."
It is wrong in the Hindu faith for a deity to encourage alcohol consumption since the beverage is considered impure, said June McDaniel, a religion professor at the College of Charleston. It's similar to Orthodox Judaism, which forbids foods such as pork and ham.
“To show Ganesh advertising impure food like alcohol would be much like having Moses advertising a pork chop or ham sandwich," McDaniel said. "Gods and religious leaders should not encourage spiritual people to become impure."
This isn’t the first time the yoga company’s logo has raised concerns. A few years ago, Cosi got emails from religious groups that expressed displeasure with her brand. She said she responded to them, but the groups didn’t follow up.
“I don’t take it very seriously because we’re not a religion," she said. "There’s no cultural appropriation. It doesn’t say anything about Ganesh in anything we do. I honor fully the culture of yoga and where it originated from.”
In Tuesday’s statement, Zed — who made headlines in 2007 when he became the first Hindu to open the U.S. Senate session with prayer — said the logo was deeply trivializing and should be removed.
Cosi said she has had the logo redesigned several times since her business started up in 2011. In response to the Hindu society’s concern, she said she will change the broken tusk — making it whole — to help disassociate the image from the deity.