Indian Hindu groups are outraged by an Australian fashion show that featured models wearing swimsuits featuring the Hindu goddess of wealth Laxmi.

After photos of the models were published in papers across the world, the designer label Lisa Blue issued an apology. They also said that production and sale of the swimwear has ceased.

“We would like to offer an apology to anyone we may have offended and advise that the image of Goddess Lakshmi will not appear on any piece of Lisa Blue swimwear for the new season, with a halt put on all production of the new range and pieces shown on the runway from last week removed,” the statement from Lisa Blue read.

“This range will never be available for sale in any… [retail outlet] anywhere in the world. Lisa Blue has been born out of a love of conservation, spirituality and a respect for all people. At no time would we ever have intended that the brand would cause offence. The use of images of Goddess Lakshmi was not in any way a measure of calculated risk taking, simply it was a desire to celebrate different cultures and share that through our brand.”

In India itself, the subject has ignited a legal battle.

The High Court of Allahabad has issued a notice to the Hindustan Times newspaper for publishing the photos of the models sporting the offending clothes.

The court also issued notices to the Press Council of India and the state and central governments asking them to explain their position over the issue.

The pictures of the swimwear have sparked protests across India, including demonstrations organized by such Hindu groups as Vishwa Hindu Parishad, Shiv Sena and Bajrang Dal.

They angrily shouted slogans against the Australian government, burned Aussie flags and disparaged designer Lisa Blue.
Jai Bhagwan Goyal, a protester in Delhi, told Reuters that the organizers of the Australian fashion show should be punished.

The sentiments of [millions] of Hindus have been hurt and this issue will not get resolved by presenting an apology,” he said.

“We feel this is a deliberate act to get cheap publicity.