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Colour of divinity and the nasty politics by chameleon mainstream media

While the rest of India was busy celebrating Makar Sankranthi and other festivals like Pongal, Lohri and Bihu, one MSM journalist from DNA, @rucha_sharma, wrote an article about how two Chennai based photographers were breaking stereotypes by depicting Hindu Gods and Goddesses in dark skin. The photographers being Bharadwaj Sundar and Naresh Nil from Slingshot Creations.

I had countered this puerile conjecture on twitter based on facts. However, unsurprisingly, the journalist in question decided to block me when she failed to counter facts and logic. So I decided to publish my rebuttal on a widely read public platform like OpIndia.

Rucha begins her article with factually incorrect assertion that :

“Even the gods and goddesses were not left out of this discussion since the day Raja Ravi Varma decided to depict Hindu deities, scenes from the epics like Mahabharata, Ramayana, or Puranas …. This possibly established that even the religious representation will lean towards fairness, even if Krishna, Ram, Shankar, etc were described as having darker skin tone.” 

She blames Hindus generically for their obsession with fair skin tone that they represent their Gods as fair-skinned. And the second assertion, that Raja Ravi Varma was particularly to be blamed for deliberately depicting even dark-skinned Gods in lighter shades.

Only if Rucha Sharma and her two “creative” Chennai based photographers had read Hindu scriptures, they would know that for us Hindus the divinity has no specific colour. We worship our Gods in various forms (and in formless Nirguna form too). The names, clothes, weapons and vaahanas of Gods represent various facets and therefore a simplistic binary interpretation as black and white is inaccurate and mal-intentioned.

Temples all over South India have pratimas made up of black stones only, be it Shri Krishna at Udupi, Sri Venkateshwar at Tirupati, Shri Rama at Rameshwaram or Devi Kanyakumari at the tip of Indian peninsula. But I will not limit my argument to south India.

Lord Krishna’s name itself as Shyam and Krishna indicate his dark-skinned body. Remember, the waning moon days are themselves referred to as Krishna Paksha in Hindu calendar. In two of the holiest temples north of Vindhyas dedicated to Sri Krishna – Nathdwara in Rajasthan and Jagannath Puri in Odisha, depict his skin tone as pitch dark. At Puri the contrast is more stark where the idols of fair-skinned Balarama and Subhadra are placed next to Krishna.

Vishnu, the preserver of holy Hindu trinity, is described as “megh varnam” (the one who is dark like rain laden clouds) in the most popular shloka dedicated to him.

And most Vishnu followers worship him every day in the form of dark “Shaligrama” stone.

And this is not limited to Vishnu or his avatars only – Lord Shiva is worshipped described as fair-skinned in the following hymn but is also worshipped as the dark-skinned form as Kaala – Bhairava in Ujjain, MP.

The photographer duo thought that they were doing a novel, path breaking social experiment by showing Durga as a dark coloured deity. Such ignorance is expected when the ‘cool dudes’ of Social Justice Warrior league don’t know that one of the forms of Navdurga (9 forms of Durga) is Kalraatri – the fierce blood thirty, demon vanishing Kali – the original feminist.

Later Rucha Sharma tried to change the goal post by claiming her article is not about religion. I would have bought her argument had she included, for example, the face of Jesus as reconstructed by some researchers. It was a far cry from the white Caucasian man he is now shown to be in most paintings.

Rucha also claimed how Raja Ravi Varma, the most famous Indian painter, was responsible for creating this cult of fair Gods and Goddesses. A simple google search would show you that it is a great affront to the legendary artist.

Raja Ravi Varma painted Hindu Gods in various shades and moods including painting Krishna as a dark-skinned boy when he meets Radha for the first time. Rama also appears as a dark-skinned man in his paintings when Rama comes across Sita before swayamvar.

So essentially we come back to the original question, who exactly is obsessed with fairness of skin if it isn’t the Hindu Gods themselves neither the painters like Raja Ravi Varma. Perhaps the culturally jaundiced eyes of some journalists and rootless uber cool photographers cannot find beauty in our culture and are forced to re-imagine the world through the eyes of social justice warriors.

Hopefully the readers can see through their shallow narrative and don’t fall for the self-shaming slogan  of “Indians are obsessed with fair skin”.

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