Norwegian Brewery Accused of Blasphemy

Bombay IPA and other beers. Photo: desti.no

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“Hinduism was the oldest and third largest religion of the world with about one billion adherents and a rich philosophical thought and it should not be taken frivolously. Symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled,” Rajan Zed noted.

He was referring to Berentsens Brewery’s IPA entitled Bombay where an elephant is depicted on the bottle. 

The brewery was first contacted about the matter in December of last year on behalf of the VHP Norway, Sanatan Mandir Sabha Slemmestad, Hindu Sanatan Mandir Drammen, Gujarati Association Norway, Bengali Samiti, and the Sri Lankan and Nepali association of Norway. 

They claimed that having the image of Ganesh on a beer bottle was undesirable and disrespectful and that it’s “directly hurting the sentiments of the whole Hindu community.”

Alcohol consumption is generally not accepted in Hinduism. 

CEO of Berentsens Brewery, Harald Berentsen denies accusations. He claims that it is not Ganesh whom is portrayed on the bottle, but a simple design of an elephant head. “It’s unfortunate that it has been interpreted in that way,” he told The Nordic Page. “We in no way meant to provoke or offend anybody.”

Fredrikke Berentsen of Berentsens Brewery clarified that the image is simply an elephant with a jewelry on its head. She also points out the imagery is lacking several symbols that are often included in drawings of Ganesh, such as the multiple arms and the flowers. She goes on to point out that Ganesh is usually illustrated from a front angle whereas the elephant on their label is a profile view.

The article continues under the photo.

Photo of Ganesh by Sathis Babu

India Pale Ale was exported to India from England during the colonial times in the 1800s, which was the inspiration behind the label. The designers of the label wanted to depict something that was “typical” Indian. They emphasize that there was no religious motive behind the label and that they were sorry to hear that this was an issue.

Several other beers from the brewery depict animals on their labels. Additionally, there is a beer named after the god Neptune, and a beer called Hulder (Nymph in English), which is a Greek and Latin mythological spirit.

When asked if Berentsens Brewery would discontinue the Bombay IPA, Harald Berentsens replied 

“We see no reason to.”

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