Gursang Preet Kaur, assistant professor of Lovely Professional University in Jalandhar, allegedly called the Hindu deity, Ram, a cunning person, during a recent presentation.
A video of the interaction went viral over the weekend, leading to outrage.
Soon after, the university distanced itself from the comments and expressed “deep regret”.
“We understand that some people have been hurt by the video shared on social media, where one of our faculty members can be heard sharing her personal opinion,” the university said in a statement on its Instagram page.
“We wish to clarify that the views shared by her are absolutely personal and the university does not endorse any of them. We have always been a secular university, where people from all religions and faith are treated equally with love and respect.”
The professor was relieved from her job with immediate effect, it added.
In the purported snippet of the video, Ms Kaur can be heard saying that Ram was a “cunning person” who hatched a plan to marry his wife Sita.
Ram was a prince according to the Hindu epic Ramayana, and he is revered as a deity in India. According to the epic, he was banished from his kingdom for 14 years by his father at the behest of his stepmother. During his exile with his wife Sita and his brother, his wife is abducted by the 10-headed demon king Ravan.
Ram later defeats Ravan and rescues Sita before returning to his kingdom. But, according to myth, he renounces Sita after devotees raised questions over her “purity” after her kidnap by Ravan. Ram makes Sita undergo a trial by fire to prove her “purity”.
Many Hindus see Ram as an ultimate example of righteousness and a symbol of self-sacrifice. However, there are some who see the deity as a flawed protagonist, especially when viewed under a contemporary lens.
Ms Kaur, during a presentation, allegedly said: “Actually Ram is not a good person by heart. Ram is not a good person at all... Ravan is a good person. I find Ram is a cunning person. He made all the plan to trap Sita. He put Sita into trouble and put all the blame on Ravan.”
“How can I decide who is good and evil, and whole world is worshipping Ram and saying that Ravan is a bad person,” she continued.
The context in which these statements were made remains unclear. But the video led to widespread outrage on social media and some called for a boycott of the university. Others asked why the entire video was not posted.
This incident comes at a time when issues of religious beliefs, caste and faith have taken centre stage in India, in both public discourse and politics.