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Historic Blunders

The Clarks shoe company has survived 180 years without provoking much protest, unless you count the rage of teenagers reluctantly forced into "sensible" footwear for school.

Yet protest is what the company faced 10 years ago when it deeply offended Britain's Hindu community. Its springsummer range, on display at 600 branches, included the long-legged Krishna boots, a snip at pound;89, and some pound;30 Vishnu sandals. Krishna and Vishnu are, of course, prominent Hindu deities and their use as shoe names was, to put it mildly, a distasteful trivialisation. When British Hindus made their feelings clear, an appalled Clarks said it was: "Completely embarrassed and had made a terrible mistake". Vishnu and Krishna had been randomly chosen by a computer - when in doubt, blame the IT department - and there was no intention to upset anyone.

Clarks may have learnt its lesson, but other companies blunder on. Lord Ram has been sneezed on after being used to decorate tissues. The goddesses Kali and Durgha have stared out from lunchboxes; and elephant-trunked Ganesha, master of intellect and wisdom, appeared briefly on a range of flip-flops until Hindus in the US forced their withdrawal.

In 2004, Harrods hastily cleared its shelves of Italian lingerie and bikinis after protests from the UK's National Council of Hindu Temples.

Designer Roberto Cavalli had displayed Lord Ram, regarded as a great warrior and an ideal man, on strategic places on his knicker line. Perhaps he took the idea from the US company that printed Shiva on their $13 thongs, while the $15 "God Shiva classic thong" declared "Namaste it loud.

You're Hindu and you're proud". And so it goes on. Despite the catalogue of firms shamed by their tactlessness, only last year the French company Minelli launched some designer footwear decorated with, yes, you've guessed it, the ever-popular Lord Ram. The shoes were not around for long.

But perhaps the worst example came in 2000, when US firm Sittin' Pretty Designs released a range of toilet seats displaying Lord Ganesha and the Goddess Kali. The next thing it released was an unconditional apology.

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