Cambodian beer named after Hindu monkey god Hanuman riles Indians

Hanuman Premium Lager is a popular beer brand in Cambodia.
PHOTO: Hanuman Beverages

A brewery in Cambodia has been caught in the eye of a religious storm after angry Indian netizens took aim at the company for naming its popular lager beer after the Hindu monkey god Hanuman.

While the Hanuman Premium Lager made by Hanuman Beverages hit the Southeast Asian nation's market months ago, the furore over the pint's name and its bottle design emblazoned with the deity's image erupted on Monday (May 30) following a tweet by a user who drew attention to promotional materials placed outside a shop.

The user, upset about the perceived religious insult, also urged the Indian embassy to reach out to the Cambodian authorities to "get the brand name and image changed".

Some Twitter users backed the demand, questioning the firm's decision to use the name despite Cambodians knowing who Hanuman was, and exhorting fellow Hindus to defend the religion.

But others described the incident as much ado about nothing and commended Cambodia's religious harmony, saying even though the drink used the god's name, the country was peaceful unlike India, which has seen a rise in communal violence in recent years.

"Hanuman is a mythological character. I don't see anything wrong with this. There are many alcohol companies named after Greek mythological characters," wrote one user.

A man in Allahabad dressed as Hindu monkey god Hanuman performs on a street during the Hanuman Jayanti Festival in India. 
PHOTO: Reuters file

Hanuman, a key character in the Indian epic Ramayana, is revered both in Cambodia and the South Asian country.

In 2015, hundreds of Cambodians gathered in Phnom Penh to receive a 10th-century Hanuman statue after it was returned by the Cleveland Museum of Art in the US which had housed the ancient sculpture since 1982. The antique was taken from the Koh Ker temple complex in Preah Vihear province decades ago.

Hanuman Beverages, which touts it product as "Cambodia's best beer", has not faced any domestic fury so far and enjoys the patronage of customers.

"This is just the beginning. We will have more products in the near future to meet the needs of customers who are always looking forward to new, unique and real quality products," local media quoted CEO Chas Geschke as saying at a business gathering last year.

It's not the first time Indian netizens have targeted foreign companies over religious beliefs.

In 2020, e-commerce giant Amazon was forced to remove doormats and other products sporting images of Hindu gods from its overseas websites following a backlash on social media.

ALSO READ: Amazon takes down underwear, doormat listings with Hindu symbols after India backlash

This article was first published in South China Morning Post.