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East Village Shop Criticized For Selling Chocolate Figurine Of Hindu God

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) -- An East Village shop that sells religious chocolate figurines has come under attack from a Hindu organization.

The Universal Society of Hinduism has asked Bond Street Chocolate to withdraw its edible elephant-headed Hindu god Ganesh.

Society President Rajan Zed says the chocolate statues are an insult to Hindus.

Zed is the society's only full-time staff member, the New York Times reported. He's a frequent critic of the nonreligious use of Hindu imagery.

He's challenged the Brooklyn Museum in the past over a mural depicting the deity Kali. He also got Urban Outfitters to stop selling a Ganesh duvet cover.

But shop owner Lynda Stern said all spiritual icons in her store are treated equally. She also sells a chocolate Jesus, Moses and Buddha, as part of the store's "divine collection."

"I'm not being ironic, I'm not trying to be offensive," Stern told 1010 WINS. "I have a lot of Hindu customers that while they would not necessarily eat the Ganesh, they enjoy the beauty and the work that goes into it."

Stern has owned Bond Street chocolate for over 6 years and has been making that particular mold for almost as long.

"Somebody brought me a beautiful statue of Ganesh from India and I turned that into chocolate," she told CBS2's Alice Gainer.

Stern said some of her Hindu customers use the edible statues to honor the deity.

"Somebody I know bought a bunch of them for a Hindu wedding shower, and there were the elder Hindu ladies who said they wouldn't eat it but they loved it and it was beautiful and took it home," Stern said.

Some believe that Zed may be overreacting.

"I would eat it certainly," Dr. Uma Mysorekar, Hindu Temple Society said,"There are some festivals in India, during which time they actually make molds of sugar of the different deities and children love to eat all of those things."

Stern said she never meant to offend anyone, but will keep making Ganesh chocolates. The chocolate sells for $15.

(TM and © Copyright 2015 CBS Radio Inc. and its relevant subsidiaries. CBS RADIO and EYE Logo TM and Copyright 2015 CBS Broadcasting Inc. Used under license. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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