hair's colour in Sanskrit

aditya at aditya at
Thu May 8 22:25:12 UTC 1997

Vidyasankar Sundaresan <vidya at> has on Wed,  7 May 1997
21:46:20 BST written as follows:

>Ohh, come on! Indians can be extremely obsessed with skin color, and will
>prefer lighter skin, especially in the person they want to marry. Look at
>any matrimonial ad in any national newspaper. You will leave with the
>impression that all Indian girls are fair, or have a "wheatish"
>complexion, and that all Indian boys are tall, dark and handsome. Of
>course, the girls are all beautiful and "homely" at the same time! 
You just echoed my argument and sentiments.

>We may not have many words for distinguishing among various tints and
languages have important role in determining the attitudes of the
people.  Lack of such refinement indicates a lack of desire to

e.g. in most Indian languages there are four words fo a single word
>shades of skin color, but we perceive such differences nonetheless. Given
>a population, the judgments are always relative, but the attitudes towards
>skin color do exist. I postulate that Indian languages do not have many
>words for different kinds of pigmentation, only because we like to
>maintain the convenient fiction that we are all light-skinned, and that
>if dark skin occurs, it is an aberration rather than the rule! Of course,
>too light a skin color can be a minus, especially if accompanied by light
>eyes and hair - in Bombay, it is standard procedure to tease one's
>konkaNastha brAhmaNa classmates with an allegation of some unknown
>European (particularly Portuguese) ancestry.
>The instinctive Indian attitudes towards skin color are seen very
>readily among Indians settled abroad, presumably an educated and
>enlightened set. Don't tell me you haven't heard Indians in the US
>referring to a black man as "kallU" and Hispanics as "makku" (derived from
>the word 'Mexican', makku has a negative meaning in south Indian tongues).
>Of course, we Indians can be very democratic in our attitudes: the word
>"gorA" can be as derogatory as "kallU"!
>In India, any "instinctive" reference to Varna when talking of skin color
>is based upon the assumption that a dark skinned person has to be
>necessarily of a lower caste than oneself. Although one can find the
>darkest skins among brAhmaNas, even in Bihar and other northern places,
>and very light skin among some of the scheduled castes and tribes. 

Have a peaceful and prosperous day.

Aditya Mishra 
Phone: 954-746-0442 
e-mail: a018967t at
Thought of the day:
        Humanity's first sin was faith; the first virtue was doubt.

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