An advertisement of online food delivery firm Zomato, featuring Bollywood actor Hrithik Roshan, landed into a controversy in Madhya Pradesh due to the mention of ‘Mahakal Thali’.
Responding to the controversy, Zomato said that the advertisement referenced ‘thalis’ at ‘Mahakal Restaurant’, and not Shree Mahakaleshwar Temple.
In the advertisement, the actor is heard saying, “Thali Khane Ka Man Kiya to Ujjain Mahakal se Manga liya” (Felt like having a ‘thali’, ordered from Ujjain Mahakal).
The advertisement did not go down well with priests of Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar temple (also referred as Mahakal temple) in Madhya Pradesh and they objected to it, arguing that the advertisement hurts the Hindu sentiments.
The Mahakal temple priests brought it to the state government’s notice and sought withdrawal of the advertisement.
The priests Mahesh and Ashish said that the devotees are served “prasad” on a thali and the advertisement hurts the feelings of Hindus.
They have also approached Ujjain Collector Ashish Singh, who is the chairman of the Mahakal temple trust, and sought action against the firm so that “no one mock the Hindu religion again”, sources told IANS on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT) on Sunday wrote to Madhya Pradesh Chief Minister Shivraj Singh Chouhan and demanded action against the actor and the Zomato.
A letter written by CAIT’s president Praveen Khandelwal to Chouhan read, “The Ad is obnoxious and hurting the sentiments of the people of India. Making commercial gain centering the most pious temple of the country is nothing but shows the manner in which these companies, backed by FDIs, are making mockery of law and the system.”
It further read, “It is highly regretted that Zomato has used the Mahakal temple to promote its service knowingly well that they are using a pious religious place for their commercial gain. The Mahakal temple is one of the 12 jyotirlingas and everyday thousands devotees are served free (prasad) food in the temple. The ad in question has attempted to monetise and capitalise the temple’s prasad for a self-gain motive which can not be accepted and therefore immediate action is needed from the government and the concerned authorities.”
Following which, the state home minister Narottam Mishra on Sunday has ordered an investigation into the matter.
“It appears that the video (of the advertisement) has been morphed and circulated on social media platforms. I have directed Ujjain SP to investigate the matter and submit its report. Further action would be taken on the basis of investigation reports,” Mishra said on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Zomato in its official statement said that “the advertisement that ran in certain pincodes of Ujjain referenced thalis at Mahakal Restaurant and not the Makaleshwar Temple. Mahakal Restaurant is one of our high order-volume restaurant partners in Ujjain, and thali is a recommended item on its menu.”
It further said that the video is part of a pan-India campaign for which Zomato has identified top local restaurants and their top dishes based on popularity in each city. Mahakal Restaurant (simplified as ‘Mahakal’) was one of the restaurants chosen for the campaign in Ujjain.
“We deeply respect the sentiments of the people of Ujjain, and the ad in question is no longer running. We offer our sincerest apologies… the intent here was never to hurt anyone’s beliefs and sentiments,” the food delivery firm said in its response to the controversy.