Hindu leader wants street mural removed for ‘disrespecting a sacred symbol'

The leader says the symbol is sacred to followers and having in a street is insulting.

TAMPA, Fla. – A street mural in Seminole Heights has caught the attention of an out-of-state Hindu leader who argues it should be removed from the ground because having people walk on it or vehicles drive over it is disrespecting a sacred symbol.

The 28-foot-wide street mural in question—a brightly painted mandala on the corner of N. River Boulevard and W. Louisiana Avenue in the heart of Tampa’s Seminole Heights neighborhood—was recently in the headlines after city workers claimed to have accidentally covered it up when they mistook it for graffiti.

RELATED: It's a coverup! Tampa workers accidentally paint over mural

Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, president of the Nevada-based Universal Society of Hinduism, says he was contacted by someone locally who saw the recent news coverage of the mural.

Mandalas are viewed by some in Hinduism as sacred and spiritual symbols.

“Since the mandala is a sacred symbol we don’t want it on a place where people can tread on it or dogs can pee or poo on it and vehicles can drive on it with their tires,” Zed told 10News via Skype.

“That is disrespecting the sacred symbol. Putting it on a nearby wall is fine with us.”

In 2014, the Universal Society of Hinduism successfully forced Amazon.com to remove leggings from its site which featured images of various Hindu gods.

Zed sent notice of his concerns regarding the mural to Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners Chair Sandra Murman and South Seminole Heaths Civic Association President Stephen Lytle. 

Lytle says the mural is not of religious intent and is not going anywhere.

The mural was meant as a solution to slow down traffic through the area which is near a park.

“At this time we have no plans to redesign or relocate our street mural. This design was selected by our community and painted by hard-working volunteers in the neighborhood,” Lytle said in a statement posted to the South Seminole Heights Civic Association’s Facebook page on Saturday.

However, the statement went on to say that Lytle had reached out to local leadership at the Hindu Temple of Florida to “create open dialogue.”

Zed told 10News he had not made such efforts to contact local Hindu leaders.

The Hindu Temple of Florida did not return 10News' requests for comment Saturday evening.

But Pawan Rattan, a local obstetrician and a founding member of the Sanatan Mandir Hindu temple of Tampa and founder of the Tampa Indo-U.S. Chamber of Commerce, was willing to provide some insight.

Speaking personally, Rattan told 10News that in order for a symbol to be considered sacred, it must be drawn in a particular way and appropriate rituals must accompany the process.

“According to some, even the ground on which it is drawn must first be purified by the priest and mantras chanted,” Rattan said.

“So in my view, although some may disagree, unless drawn in a spiritual and ritualistic way, this drawing is not ‘sacred.’”

Rattan acknowledged that Hinduism is a religion of more than 700 subsets which has no Pope, no book and no ‘absolute’ rules, he said, which will explain why opinions may differ among Hindus.

Hinduism is the dominant religion in India. 

The Indian community in Tampa has grown in recent decades, according to our reporting partners at the Tampa Bay Times.

It’s estimated that 2,000 people of Indian descent live in Tampa while nearly 30,000 live in Hillsborough County, according to the Tampa Indo-U.S. Chamber of Commerce.

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