Two paintings depicting Prime Minister Narendra Modi as Hindu deities have been removed from an exhibition by the authorities at Maharaja Sayajirao University in Vadodara, The Times of India reported on Monday.

The Faculty of Fine Arts had leased out space for an exhibition titled “Modi@20” by the Bhubaneshwar-based Suvadra Art Gallery. Two of the paintings depicted Modi as Hindu deities Vishwakarma and Vishnu to mark 20 years of his holding public office.

A day before the exhibition was to start on Sunday, the fine arts faculty had asked the exhibitor to remove the paintings to avoid controversy, according to The Times of India. However, as the exhibitor went ahead with the display painting, they were removed by the university authorities.

“We respectfully conveyed to them that they should refrain from putting up pictures that could hurt the sentiments of a sect or community,” the Dean of Faculty of Fine Arts at the institution told The Indian Express.

Maharaja Sayajirao University has witnessed controversy about the artistic depiction of Hindu deities on at least two occasions in the past. In 2022, a student of fine arts was expelled from the college and booked in a case of hurting religious sentiments for an art installation that allegedly depicted Hindu deities in an objectionable manner.

The actions against the student were taken after Hindutva bodies staged protests at the college. They accused the dean of breaking a resolution from 2007, which was passed after a similar incident involving a university student. Srilamanthula Chandramohan, a student of the university has not been awarded his master’s degree after the authorities decided to withhold his evaluation for allegedly objectionable artworks he had made in 2007. The case against Chandramohan is still pending.

On Sunday, the dean of the arts faculty said that the authorities did not want “any kind of trouble or unwanted attention” towards the professors, The Times of India reported.

Meanwhile, the two artists, Harekrishna Pal from Tripura and Raj Saini from Madhya Pradesh, said they were disappointed at the decision as the paintings had nothing negative about them.