Beliefnet News

Should a group of strict Hindu vegetarians — who were mistakenly served meat — get all-expenses-paid trips to India so they can cleanse themselves in the Ganges River?

An appeals court has overturned a judge’s ruling – and will allow their lawsuit to go forward against a New Jersey restaurant that prepared a tray of fried meat pies — but mistakenly labled them “VEG.”

But must American Hindus dip themselves in the Ganges in order to be cleansed of sin? Perhaps not, says one Hindu leader.

Hinduism, the third largest religion in the world and the principal religion on the Indian subcontinent, teaches that meat consumption affects the purity of the soul and that those who consume the flesh of animals cannot be with God after death.

Pradip Kothari, president of the Indo-American Cultural Society in Edison, New Jersey, told the Cable News Network that the diners could easily go to a temple to cleanse their souls.

“I understand how they feel,” Kothari said. “I myself am a Hindu. But this is hypocrisy of the law. If you are a true religious person, God teaches you to forgive.”

The diners in question convinced a three-judge panel that they deserve their day in court — that the mix-up has harmed them spiritually and monetarily. They say if they are to cleanse themselves of their unintentional sin, they must participate in a purification ritual in India’s most sacred river.

“If you follow the scriptures, its definitely a huge cost,” said Mehul Thakkar, a spokesman for the Yogi Divine Society in nearby Lake Hiawatha, New Jersey. He heads a non-profit group that adheres to the principles of the Swaminarayan faith of Hinduism. “If they are very strict about it, there definitely is a fee involved.”

Thakkar, whose organization is not involved in the suit, declined to comment to the Religious News Service on the decision issued by a panel of judges. He said the purification ceremony can last from three to 30 days. Costs can add up to thousands of dollars and are based on how much a participant can afford.

The Mughal Express restaurant has apologized for its error. Strict vegetarians Durgesh Gupta and Sharad Agrawal say that’s not enough.

Gupta told the appeals court that a restaurant employee assured them that it did not make meat samosas. A half-hour later, the two men picked up a tray labeled “VEG samosas.”

But after their group of 16 began eating the triangular deep-fried pastries, they grew concerned they were eating meat. When they returned the samosas, the restaurant admitted the mistake, court documents show.

What the 16 Hindus want is compensation for a trip to the Hindu holy town of Haridwar, India, where the Ganges begins its downward flow to the ocean. There, they want to take dips in the river and, by Hindu belief, cleanse their souls.

It could take 30 days.

And they want the restaurant to pay for it all.

Join the Discussion
comments powered by Disqus