The Indian obsession for fair skin is a modern phenomenon! Ancient Indians favored dark skin. Know why the preference switched with time –

Indians are obsessed with fair skin, isn’t it? You can find this obsession everywhere – From the matrimonial ads to the TV Commercials and even in your every day life! Here, a fair girl is considered pretty but a girl with dark skin might not be even considered average looking, forget being beautiful. But, were we obsessed with fair skin from time immemorial? Not really!

It appears that ancient India had a preference for dark skin. It is backed by lot of evidences. For instance, the epitome of male beauty in the Hindu tradition is Lord Krishna who is clearly dark skinned. His name means “The Dark One” (his illustration as “blue skinned” is only a medieval artistic creativity). Lord Rama was also dark skinned and considered very handsome.

ancient india beautiful dark skin woman Ancient India Preferred Dark Skin, Not Fair Skin!

Likewise, the gorgeous Draupadi, described as extraordinarily beautiful who could not be surpassed by any other woman during her time in terms of beauty, is also depicted as being very dark. The fondness for dark skin traveled from ancient to the medieval period as well. This fact is well documented by travelers to India in the medieval period.

Marco Polo mentions in his travelogue, The Travel (Translated by R Latham and published by Penguin in 1958) – “For I assure you that the darkest man is here the most highly esteemed and considered better than others who are not so dark. Let me add that in very truth these people portray and depict their gods and their idols black and their devils white as snow.”

Unfortunately, it is not known when the taste changed, but according to the texts it depicts that the ancient Indian viewpoint in terms of aesthetic was way different then how it is today. 

Well, I think perhaps the obsession of fair skin began during the start of the colonization period. When the Portuguese, French, Dutch and British invaded India. Most of these people were racists. They not only held shallow perception about the dark skinned people but also considered them ugly.

Perhaps that is why a Brit soldier gave the infamous statement – “Were it not for the complexion, the South Indian women would be considered pretty. This perception and thought of the British would perhaps have transpired in the Indian minds. The Brits were fair skinned, and back in those times  major section of the Indians were rewarded if they joined this elite class.

Kajol Ancient India Preferred Dark Skin, Not Fair Skin!

According to me, the obsession of fair skinned must have set its foot during this phase were Indians by large wanted to be more accepted by their colonial rulers as dark skin had become a liability rather than an asset . Obviously, Indians didn’t want to become a victim of racial abuse and termed as ‘colored’. This was the same period when Indians studied in the schools run by the British and European missionaries. The same period when the young Indians started admiring the fair skin colonisers and were taught to be ashamed of thrir “primitive” and superstition based culture.

Or was the preference for light skin developed even before colonization  when  fair skinned merchants, traders and rulers from Persia and Afghanistan established a strong presence.

Aha, makes me wonder – “Radha Kyu Gori Mai Kyu Kaala” is all due to the modern obsession for fair skinned and I always thought that Sri Krishna actually wondered and questioned  something like this as a child.


What are you thoughts on why this colour preference changed from dark skinned to fair skinned? 


By: Deepti Verma

With Inputs from: 

The Travel Marco Polo(Translated by R Latham and published by Penguin in 1958)

Land of the Seven Rivers ~ Sanjeev Sanyal


Image Source: Dusky Indian woman

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