What is the Color of God?

God as the Universe

by Jayaram V

Color prejudice is universally present in Indian society at many levels and in numerous forms. The following are a few striking examples. Some of them may offend your sensibility because you are conditioned to think so, but if you keep reading them with an open mind, you will understand the purpose of this presentation. Again, they are not about everyone, but a predominant section of society. There are a number of good people in India who want to see a change in these matters. Hopefully, you are one of them.

1. Indian men prefer fair colored brides for marriage. So is the case with women when it comes to choosing marriage partners for their children. For dark-skinned women it is an uphill task to get married, or they have to be wealthy or pay more dowry to compensate for their complexion.

2. Traditionally Indian caste system has been predominantly color based. Historically, dark color is associated with lower and mixed castes.

3. In many professions such as public relations, marketing, and journalism, fair complexion is an unwritten qualification. In the selection process, it can fairly compensate for lack of skills or qualifications.

4. Players and athletes with fair complexion have better chances of securing more lucrative advertising deals than their counterparts even if by international standards their performance is mediocre or below average

4. Many fair colored Indians take pride in their skin complexion and look down upon their not so fair colored brethren as inferior and uncultured. The attitude spills out into art and media, where traditionally darker ethnic groups are caricatured and made fun of.

5. Historically, Indian voters tend to vote for established political families, film stars, and personalities based on their looks and complexion rather than their intelligence, character, contribution, or leadership. Their admiration goes to such an extent that they repeatedly forgive crime and corruption of such individuals.

6. Fair skinned actors stand better chances of getting most of the roles in Indian films and television programs, even if their acting skills are questionable. In many movies, even extras are imported from foreign countries for song and dance sequences, since the Indian male audience prefer watching white women in skimpy clothes. South Indian film makers unabashedly prefer casting fair skinned actors from the North, even if they do not speak local languages or possess good acting skills.

8. Body lotions and fair skin creams are fairly popular in India and figure prominently in prime time advertisements in television programs and news channels. Fair complexioned women appear more frequently on the cover pages and get more coverage in women's and lifestyle magazines

9. The advertisement industry in India is dominated by fair looking models with European features. Most advertisements show a clear color bias and associate prosperity, status, happiness, success, and affluence with fair complexion.

10. Beauty contests are geared to reinforce color prejudice as if fair color is synonymous with beauty. In the last fifty years hardly any dark skinned contestant has been chosen as Miss India or a beauty queen. The Miss America winner of 2013 who is of Indian origin with dark complexion would not have even reached semi finals had she contested for Miss India pageant and stood before the Indian judges.

11. White women from abroad and fair colored Indian women have greater chances of getting raped, kidnapped, harassed, or molested if they are found alone in vulnerable places.

The color of skin and self-esteem

The color of skin is a very superficial aspect of the human personality, but it serves an important role in creating an identity and image for each person. The color of your skin is something that you inherit, just like your gender. There is nothing much you can do about it other than keeping yourself in good health and presentable to the word. What is worse is living inside a body you tend to hate.

I am not sure at what stage a child becomes conscious of his or her body color. It is probably when children start going to school or when they notice that they are being discriminated by their parents, teachers, peers, or friends and realize that some people receive preferential treatment because of their color, affluence, or appearance. Many children from immigrant families realize this harsh truth in the Kindergarten itself when they are made to feel different and discriminated.

Your color and appearance play an important role in shaping your beliefs and values about yourself and others, and your personality and behavior. In the early stages of your development and in the formation of your self-image, depending upon your conditioning and the values you acquire, you may form either an attachment or aversion to your physique and body color. If you do not like yourself for whatever reasons, your skin color and appearance may aggravate those feelings and lower your self-esteem which can consequently affect your relationships, confidence and lifestyle choices. If society itself does not value your skin color, it is even more difficult to feel comfortable in the skin of your own body and appreciate your self-worth against the judgment that society imposes upon you.

White skin color certainly offers a few advantages in finding mates and friends or increasing your personal influence, appeal and agreeableness, but it has its own downside. Many people perhaps do not know that the skin of white people is vulnerable to paleness, dryness, speckles, early wrinkling and sagging. If people in India look for skin creams and body lotions to improve their looks and complexion, people in the West look for sunscreen lotions and tanning solutions to improve their skin color and health.

Thus, there is nothing exceptionally superior about any skin type or color, except that fair complexion may look light and pleasing to the eyes of the beholders. Each skin type and complexion comes with its own set of advantages and disadvantages, and people must learn to take them in their stride, knowing that their peace and happiness depend upon accepting what Nature has given them and taking care of it rather than fighting it and resisting it for life. Besides, after a certain age, people of all colors and hues have to deal with their aging skin and learn to live with it.

What is the color of God?

The color of the skin is a part of our survival mechanism. All skin colors have a role and importance in the survival of human species. In reality our beliefs and attitudes towards skin color are based upon some false notions and illusions. For example, both black and white are nor really colors but illusions. The white color is an illusion formed by the combination of seven distinct colors. Dark color is simply their absence.

In terms of superiority, the dark color certainly stands out. Since light cannot go far in the limitless universe, the universe is predominantly black, not white. Black is the natural and original color of the universe, the constant. White color is temporary and rare. This is the truth.

It is also a fallacy and a delusion to believe that God is a white person. The Supreme Brahman is without color or attributes. As the manifested Brahman if he has any color, it cannot be any color other than black or blue. His essence is purity (sattva), but his physical appearance is black. While people may think otherwise, darkness or black color is the eternal color of the entire existence across all space and billions of galaxies. About 95% of the universe is filled with dark matter, not white matter.

Hence, Hinduism rightly acknowledges that God is a dark Being (Ghan Shaym). He is Kala, which means Death, Time and also refers to black color. Just as the universe appears to the naked eye, the manifested Universal Being is either blue and radiant when light is reflected upon him, and dark and black when light is absent. This is the truth. If he is only light, as some people prefer to envision him, he would be a very inferior and limited being, just as the tiny dots of light on the dark canvas of the night sky.

Therefore, if you are a Hindu, you should not have any aversion to dark complexion. Just as you would acknowledge the mental brilliance and wisdom of a person as a manifestation (vibhuti) of God, you should accept the dark complexion of a person also as his reflection only. Otherwise, how can you appreciate God who is black in color if you cannot appreciate those who are dark like him?

You may romanticize your relationship with a good looking, fair skinned God, as they do in many Indian, commercial, television serials, but just like the television programs your relationship with him also will remain an illusion because neither the actor nor his skin color reflect the true deity who is beyond all duality and delusion.

In Hinduism, we learn that name and form are illusions, and if you are a true devotee, you must look beyond them to know the truth of things and the essence of your own consciousness. Unfortunately, in recent times most people have fallen into the trap of the secular idea of God as a handsome attractive being. You should know from the Bhagavadgita that if God really presents himself before you like he did before Arjuna, it will not be a very pleasant sight.

In this regard, Islam offers a rare insight into the nature of God. The religion prohibits making the images of God probably because the Prophet did not want humans to develop prejudiced and incorrect notions of God based upon false images or imagination. Instead, he suggested that Muslims should worship formless God and try to visit Mecca at least once in their lifetimes to make a circumambulation around Kaaba. At the center of the Kaaba is a dark stone which appears very similar to our Siva lingam with a circular base. People spend days and months in Mecca to get just a brief glimpse of it. The dark stone symbolizes the color of God if he has any, just as the universe.

As a Hindu, from the images of Kali, Ganesha, Hanuman, Shiva, or Shakti, you should know this much. The beauty of things is not in the forms or the color of the forms, but in their essence. Color in Hinduism is an impurity and form is a symbol of the bondage of the soul to those impurities. Our scriptures suggest that  to become liberated we must transcend our attachment to names and forms. It is why most of the idols in our ancient temples are not physically attractive. Whether you go to Kalighat or to Puri Jagannath, you will find rather unusual looking deities with somewhat jarring features. It is meant to ensure that your devotion to God is not lost in the web of forms and outward beauty.

Unfortunately, in the past few decades we have seen a reversal of this trend. We are now constructing five star temples and installing pretty and good looking statues of our deities made of white marble or gold and silver, equating divinity with celebrity star status and white complexion. Clearly, it indicates how far we have deviated from our past and how far films and media have corrupted our culture and religious beliefs to the extent that we have injected racism and color prejudice into our cultural and religious icons.

India is a nation of predominantly brown people and black people, and there is nothing shameful or inferior about it. Even those who consider themselves white are not truly white, but their distant cousins. Most people in the subcontinent have a mixed ancestry and represent a cultural and racial amalgamation that took place thousands of years ago. The Indian subcontinent was probably the first in the history of the world to witness the growth of heterogeneous society with complex socio religious beliefs and cultural practices. Many nations in the world have yet to come to terms with such a development and are doing their best to prevent it through laws and discrimination.

Hence, there is a need among today's Hindus to change their attitude and mindset about the color of their skin and racial and regional prejudices, and appreciate the beauty and the purpose in the diversity of God's creation. Hindus should be tolerant not only towards other faiths but towards people of all social, religious and economic backgrounds. They should accept their mixed color as the national color and part of their unique cultural identity rather than trying to replace them with desperate measures. They must realize that at some point in the history of the earth, all humans will be predominantly mixed color only.

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