Christian-Jew-Buddhist leaders back Hindu plea of no sacred mandalas on Tampa roads


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From right to left—Stephen R. Karcher, Rajan Zed, ElizaBeth Webb Beyer and Matthew T. Fisher.
Picture by: George A. Anastassatos

In a remarkable interfaith gesture; Christian, Jew and Buddhist leaders have backed the Hindu plea that sacred mandalas do not belong on Tampa (Florida) roads; which was recently floated by distinguished Hindu statesman Rajan Zed.

Zed, who is President of Universal Society of Hinduism, recently pointed out: Mandalas are sacred symbols and do not belong on the surface of public roads where humans and animals tread, dogs can pee/poo and vehicles trample these under the tires.

Referencing to South Seminole Heights road mural “Mandala” in Tampa (claimed to be Tampa’s first street mural), Hindu statesman Rajan Zed, in a statement in Nevada, noted that Hindus would welcome mandalas painted respectfully on the walls, but sacred mandalas on the surface of roads/streets were highly inappropriate.

According to reports, part of this 28-foot wide mandala, costing about $5,000, was accidently covered with black asphalt by city workers on November 30 after being mistaken as graffiti. City officials later acknowledged the mistake.

Stephen R. Karcher, a senior Greek Orthodox Christian priest; ElizaBeth Webb Beyer, a prominent Jewish Rabbi in Nevada-California; and Matthew T. Fisher, a well-known Buddhist leader; in a joint statement in Nevada; said that symbols of any faith, larger or smaller, should not be mishandled. Inappropriate usage of concepts or symbols of any religion for commercial or other agenda was not okay as it hurt the devotees.

Karcher, Beyer, Fisher and Zed suggested Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Hillsborough County Board of Commissioners Chair Sandra Murman, and South Seminole Heights Civic Association (SSHCA) President Stephen Lytle to recreate the mandala on a nearby wall instead of restoring the damaged mandala on the road.

Cities, counties and civic associations should not be in the business of inappropriate usage of sacred religious symbols; Karcher, Beyer, Fisher and Zed indicated.

Murals on public roads to slow down drivers or other purposes were fine as long as they were not the sacred religious symbols; Karcher, Beyer, Fisher and Zed added.

The plaque near the South Seminole Heights mandala states that it was made possible through the combined efforts of the City of Tampa, Hillsborough County, and the SSHCA. It was designed by artist Catherine Thomas and painted by local residents on July 15. SSHCA website claimed that the street mural acted as “a traffic calming measure increasing pedestrian safety and walkability in the neighborhood”. Prints of this mural are sold at Etsy for $10-$25 each.

Mandala is a sacred symbolic diagram and used as a way of manifesting the deity/deities. Mostly found on walls/scrolls, mandalas are sometimes drawn on consecrated ground for relevant rituals, which are erased on the ritual completion. Marked spaces within mandalas symbolize heavenly abodes of deities.

Date: 
Saturday, December 9, 2017