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Above: Even Krishna, who hailed from the Hindu low-caste of milkmen, and is described as a dark-skinned god in the scriptures, is now often shown as fair-skinned.

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India’s Hindu Caste Wars -
Krishna in Hindu Texts is Dark-Skinned:
Then Why Does Hindutva Make Him Light Skinned?





India is a country where the current Hindutva government aggressively promotes the privileges of the light-skinned Hindu ‘upper-castes’ and discriminates against the dark-skinned Hindu ‘lower-castes’.

In India, where light skin is coveted, a new campaign is re-imagining popular Hindu gods and goddesses with a darker skin. The desire for fairer skin is not new in India and for centuries, fair complexion has been considered superior.

Skin-whitening creams are among the highest selling cosmetic products in the country and top Bollywood actors and actresses regularly appear in commercials endorsing fair-complexion products.

In recent years, creams and gels have been introduced which claim to lighten armpit hair and even female genitals, and advertisements encourage customers to believe that lighter skin tones would help them improve their lives by getting a better job or win them love.

In the past few years, there have been campaigns such as Dark is Beautiful and #unfairandlovely, calling on people to celebrate dark skin.

Yet, the unhealthy obsession with light skin has continued and, as ad filmmaker Bharadwaj Sundar says, it's not just limited to earthly beings, it includes the divine too.

"All the images of the popular gods and goddesses that we see around us, photographs in our home shrines or prayer halls, online, on calendars, stickers and posters in shops and pasted behind auto-rickshaws, all show them to be light-skinned."

In a culture obsessed with fair skin, Mr Sundar points out that even Krishna, who is described as a dark-skinned god in the Hindu scriptures, is often shown as fair. And so is the elephant-headed Ganesha, even though there are no white elephants in India.

 "Everyone here prefers fair skin. But I am a dark-skinned person and all my friends are dark-skinned too. So how do I identify with fair-skinned gods and goddesses?"

To fight this disconnect, Mr Sundar, who is based in the southern city of Chennai, teamed up with photographer Naresh Nil and the two have come up with "Dark is Divine" - a project that portrays Hindu idols with a darker skin colour.

They recruited "dusky" male and female models, dressed them up as Hindu deities and shot the campaign images over two days in December and the result is quite stunning.

Model Suruthi Periyasamy told the BBC that she had to face too many rejections in the past "because no-one wanted a dusky model" and that she was "thrilled" when she was chosen to portray Lakshmi, the hindu goddess of wealth.

"Lakshmi is the most popular goddess in India, everyone wants a daughter-in-law like her because she brings prosperity so I feel so blessed to be her."

Ms Periyasamy says everyone talks about working with dark-skinned models, but no-one really encourages them. She says she hopes that this campaign will "change the minds of some people to allow us to shine in life".

Since the campaign was launched last month, Mr Sundar says they have received lots of calls and the responses have been largely positive, though some people have accused them of unfair biases, pointing out that goddess Kali is always portrayed as black. [Of course! Kali is the goddess of death. The word ‘kali’ literally means black.]

Mr Sundar says he's a devout Hindu and does not mean disrespect to anyone but "if we look around, we find that 99.99% times, the divine is fair-skinned".

"Appearance plays a major role in how we perceive people, especially women, and we felt that this needed to be addressed," he says.

"And through the Dark is Divine project, we are trying to challenge the belief that fair skin is superior."


 [Courtesy: BBC News. Edited for]

January 25, 2018

Conversation about this article

1: Jagdeep Singh (Ludhiana, Punjab), January 26, 2018, 8:53 AM.

Our biggest challenge today, as the Sikh community, is to resist being influenced by the nefarious brahminical practices, especially those around Hindu caste-based practices and prejudices. Punjab is not doing well on this front today; the forces of regression, ignorance and superstition have surrounded us from all sides.

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Krishna in Hindu Texts is Dark-Skinned:
Then Why Does Hindutva Make Him Light Skinned?"

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