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What Colour is God’s Skin? The Dark Is Divine Photo Series Asks

Have you seen the thought-provoking Dark is Divine photo series by Naresh Nil and Bharadwaj Sundar yet?

Published
India
3 min read
Can’t our Gods be dark-skinned?
i

The fact that Indians favour fair skin is no secret. And this desire for fair skin manifests itself in a number of ways – the extensive market for fairness products, the positive perception of and the preference for fair-skinned people in personal and professional spheres, and even in how we depict our Gods.

What Colour is God’s Skin? The Dark Is Divine Photo Series Asks
(Photo courtesy: Dark is Divine)

But can’t our Gods be dark-skinned?

This is a question that a Chennai-based duo has dared to ask through their photo series ‘Dark is Divine’. It reimagines deities as dark-skinned individuals, and questions the preference for whiter complexion when it comes to those we worship.

For Bharadwaj Sundar, co-founder of Chennai-based production house Slingshot Productions, it began with a picture in his home.

What Colour is God’s Skin? The Dark Is Divine Photo Series Asks
(Photo courtesy: Dark is Divine)
Whether it’s temples within our own homes or the pictures of Gods at a barber shop – they are all the same. All of them show Gods who are fair. 
Bharadwaj Sundar

What bothered him was that while a majority of us have much darker complexions, we prefer to worship Gods with fairer skin because we equate it with being better.

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What Colour is God’s Skin? The Dark Is Divine Photo Series Asks
(Photo courtesy: Dark is divine)
I believe it’s a post-colonial hangover. The idea that fair is superior and better seems to have come from there. Because here, in India, we’re a majority of dark-skinned individuals.
Bharadwaj Sundar

He also noticed how some of the Gods like Rama and Krishna were depicted as blue-skinned sometimes, but were never portrayed as having dark brown or black skin.

Bal Krishna
Bal Krishna
(Photo courtesy: Dark is divine)
I don’t know about others, but I’m dark-skinned, and I’d like to relate to my Gods when I pray to them.
Bharadwaj Sundar
What Colour is God’s Skin? The Dark Is Divine Photo Series Asks
(Photo courtesy: Dark is divine)

Bharadwaj began conceptualising the project in September 2017. While it was supposed to be a 12-photo series for a calendar, due to budget constraints, they decided to limit the number of photos to six.

But the seventh one came into being because, during the process of shooting, their make-up artist was moved by the concept and requested for another photo to be added. That photo became Sita with her sons, Luva and Kusha.

Sita with Luva and Kusha
Sita with Luva and Kusha
(Photo courtesy: Dark is divine)

The photos were shot by Naresh Nil, another co-founder of Slingshot Productions. The ultimate goal they hope to achieve with ‘Dark is Divine’ is not just acceptance of the idea, but the normalisation of a dark-skinned God.

What Colour is God’s Skin? The Dark Is Divine Photo Series Asks
(Photo courtesy: Dark is divine)
The ultimate victory for such a project would be if someone printed one of the photos and perhaps added it to their place of worship in their home and prayed to that God.
Bharadwaj Sundar

(This article has been published in an arrangement with The News Minute.)

(At The Quint, we are answerable only to our audience. Play an active role in shaping our journalism by becoming a member. Because the truth is worth it.)

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