Unbeknownst to many, the small town of Crozet — population 2,820 — is a hub of mythical mail-order statuary.
The warehouse of a company called Sacred Source sells and distributes a slew of religious and mythological statues and other three-dimensional iconography, with website categories evoking Buddhist, Celtic, Greek, Roman, Gnostic, Norse, Egyptian and Middle Eastern cultures.
But it's the Albemarle County company's Hindu-inspired offerings that are taking flak from the Forum for Hindu Awakening, a New Jersey-based group. Its Virginia spokeswoman says several of Sacred Source's statues are offensive because they portray Hindu deities engaging in sexual intercourse.
Bhavna Shinde points to a statue of Hindu goddess Shakti, astride Hindu god Shiva, which can be purchased on Sacred Source's site, sacredsource.com ($46 for the 8-inch version, $121 for 12 inches). She says the image “is not at all scripturally correct and it is very offensive.”
“Lord Shiva is the embodiment of detachment,” Shinde says, and well-known depictions of sex in Hinduism — such as in the sacred Kama Sutra text — occur between humans, not deities, who “do not have any desires that humans do.”
“When we talk about the union of Shiva and Shakti it's only in the spiritual sense,” Shinde says. She wants Sacred Source to stop selling a dozen or so offending sculptures.
Too bad, says Liana Kowalzik, co-owner of Sacred Source with her husband, Pete. Kowalzik says Sacred Source is “not going to stop carrying the statues at all.”
Shinde's allegations of offensiveness derive from “one branch of the Hindu faith,” Kowalzik argues. “They're ignoring and discriminating against the Tantric Hindu believers for whom these images are sacred,” she says.
Kowalzik says the statues are made by Hindus in India, as part of “an exclusive relationship but it's not us imposing our will down on Hindus,” she says.
Kowalzik says she's received e-mailed death threats as a result of the controversy. After a reporter forwards copies of some threatening emails, Shinde says she hasn't seen them. “We only urge for peaceful, educative protests,” Shinde says.