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‘Mahakal se mangaa liya’: Zomato issues clarification after ad starring Hrithik triggers outrage

Zomato clarified that ad featuring Hrithik Roshan had a reference to Mahakal restaurant, one of its 'high-order-volume restaurant partners' in Ujjain, and not the 'revered Shree Mahakaleshwar Temple'.

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New Delhi: In a soup over an advertisement featuring actor Hrithik Roshan, online food delivery aggregator Zomato issued a clarification Sunday after priests of a temple in Madhya Pradesh’s Ujjain objected to the supposed reference to ‘thalis’ in the ad.

Madhya Pradesh Home minister Narottam Mishra has reportedly directed the state police to look into the matter.

The ad, which Zomato claims has now been withdrawn, showed Hrithik Roshan saying: “Thali khane ka man tha, Mahakal se mangaa liya (felt like eating a platter, ordered it from Mahakal)”.

Many social media users claimed that the ad offended Hindu sentiments by referring to ‘thalis’ which are served as ‘prasad’ (offerings) to devotees free of cost at the Mahakaleshwar or Mahakal temple in Ujjain.

In a statement Sunday, Zomato clarified that the ad referred to ‘thalis’, a recommended item on the menu of Mahakal restaurant — which it described as one of its “high-order-volume restaurant partners” in Ujjain — and not the “revered Shree Mahakaleshwar Temple”.

The Gurgaon-based company also said that the ad ran in “specific pin codes of Ujjain” and the video was part of its “pan-India campaign” for which it identified “top local restaurants and their top dishes based on popularity in each city”.

“We deeply respect the sentiments of the people of Ujjain, and the ad in question is no longer running. We offer our sincerest apologies, for the intent here was never to hurt anyone’s beliefs and sentiments,” the statement read.

Also Read: Zomato workers panting on bicycles with low pay. But for company, image matters

Priests approach DC, traders’ body takes offence

At least two priests of the Ujjain’s Mahakaleshwar temple — which is one of twelve ‘Jyotirlingas‘ — had earlier demanded that Zomato withdraw the ad as it offended Hindu sentiments.

“Zomato should withdraw the advertisement immediately. Devotees are served prasad on a thali, and the ad hurts the feelings of Hindus. Hence, the company should also apologise for hurting their sentiments,” temple priests Mahesh and Ashish had told news agency PTI.

The priests also approached Ujjain District Collector Ashish Singh, who is also chairman of Mahakal temple trust, and sought action against Zomato to ensure that no other company mocks Hindu religion in the future.

The Confederation of All India Traders (CAIT), too, objected to Zomato’s ad featuring Hritik Roshan. “The prasad thali of Mahakaal is served free for centuries but within the specified place at the temple premises only. There is no question of giving prasad thali to anyone outside the temple,” Praveen Khandelwal, secretary general of the traders’ body, said in a video statement Sunday.

However, this is not the first time Zomato is left fending for itself after a controversy.

In 2019, the company faced backlash over its decision to provide customers the option to order only ‘Halal’ food. That same year, the company was criticised for its response to a customer who complained about being assigned a Muslim delivery partner, in which it had said: “Food doesn’t have a religion. It is a religion.”

Then again in August 2021, the company had to issue a clarification after an ad featuring actors Hrithik Roshan and Katrina Kaif was criticised for showing “ill treatment” of delivery partners.

In October last year, the company faced backlash yet again after a customer from Tamil Nadu alleged that he was denied a refund for an item missing from his order on the grounds that he did not know the “national language” — a reference to Hindi.

(Edited by Amrtansh Arora)

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