Anti Blackness in South Asia

by SAHF Team

Hinduism Says ‘Dark Is Beautiful’

Unfortunately, nowadays, we are coming across many statements from some misguided people that conclude that Hinduism is somehow against people of darker colour. This, however, is not the traditional stance within Hinduism; in fact, darker colours are considered to be a sign of beauty. What is the evidence for this? If we look at Sanskrit for particular names, we can see this clearly. For example, the name Krsna has two syllables: Krs and Na. These syllables essentially mean ‘the dark one and the all attractive one’. It’s mentioned in most Hindu scriptures that describe the beauty of the dark-skinned Lord Krishna. Here is an example:

kṛpā-pārāvāraḥ sajala-jalada-śreṇi-ruciro
ramā-vāṇī-rāmaḥ sphurad-amala-paṅkeruha-mukhaḥ
surendrair ārādhyaḥ śruti-gaṇa-śikhā-gīta-carito
jagannāthaḥ svāmī nayana-patha-gāmī bhavatu me. (Jagannathastakam, verse 4) 

Meaning: Lord Jagannatha [considered by many Hindus to be a form of Lord Krishna] is an ocean of mercy and as beautiful as a row of blackish rain clouds. He is the storehouse of bliss for Lakshmi and Sarasvati, and his face resembles a spotless full-blown lotus. The best of demigods and sages worship Him, and the Upanishads sing His glories. May that Jagannatha Swamy be the object of my vision.

In this particular verse, ‘Sajala-jalada-sreni” is describing Lord Jagannatha’s dark beauty. This is one example of many that shows how Hinduism venerates individuals and deities with darker skin.

Another example of this Hindu veneration for darker skin can be found in the Mahabharatam. In this Hindu epic, we see the story of Draupadi. She was also described as dark skinned, and one of her names was also Krsna. She was described as being very beautiful, and many princes and kings also wanted her as their queen.

So Why Does Colourism Exist In India?

If Hinduism is appreciating darker beauty, then why is there a stigma against darker skinned individuals in Indian society? The answer is that over time, the core roots have become tainted by people due to colonial consciousness. What they have learnt through family traditions, religion, and culture became eradicated due to European colonial subjugation, and people adopted a new set of beauty standards that matched the Eurocentric beauty standards of the colonizer. Due to the imposition of these new Eurocentric ‘beauty’ standards, darker skin became a burden instead of the valued beauty feature it was in Hindu society.

To dive into more specifics, when the British invaded India, they referred to the natives as “black coloured” and compared them to animals rather than humans. The ruling officers of the British Empire made alliances with “light-skinned Indians and gave them extra advantages over the rest of the ‘blacks'”. The British planted the seed of white superiority into the minds of Indian society. The colonial-era shaped the Indian common man’s association of the white coloured skin “with the ruling class, with power, with desirability, and also with beauty”.

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