A local unit of the Republican Party in the US state of Texas has apologised to Hindus for offending them by publishing an advertisement featuring the Hindu deity Ganesha.

The advertisement, which was published in a local newspaper in Fort Bend County on the occasion of Ganesh Chaturthi, had the slogan “Would you worship a donkey or an elephant? The choice is yours” below a picture of Ganesha. The ruling Republican Party’s symbol is the elephant while the donkey is the symbol of political rival, the Democrats.

The picture of Ganesha was surrounded by several qualities of the deity. It said he had “a big head, to think out of the box”, “big eyes to look beyond what you see”, “large ears to listen to others attentively”, “large stomach to peacefully digest all the good and bad in life” and so on about each body part.

Nearly 20% of the county’s population is made of Asian-Americans, and a large number of them speak Urdu, Gujarati and Hindi, according to Huffington Post.

Describing it as an “offensive” advertisement, the Hindu-American Foundation of Houston said the “ad – equating Hindus’ veneration of the Lord Ganesha with choosing a political party based on its animal symbol – is problematic.”

Rishi Bhutada, a member of the foundation who lives in the county, said using religious imagery to explicitly appeal for political support should be avoided by all political parties. “The implication regarding the worship of animals as gods was also disheartening to the HAF leaders, as that is a common misconception taught in US schools, which frequently ends up becoming a taunt used to bully Hindu students,” the HAF added.

In response, the Fort Bend Republican party said: “The ad was not meant to disparage Hindu customs or traditions in any way. We offer our sincerest apologies to anyone that was offended by the ad. Obviously, that was not the intent.”

“The ad was meant to be part of the celebration to acknowledge the ‘Ganesh Chaturthi’ festival of September 13,” its Chairperson Jacey Jetton said in a letter. “This ad was created with input from those of Hindu faith so that we could properly pay respect to the sacred festival. This highlights the difficulty in outreach that can be positive for one group but not for another in the same community.”