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Does Hinduism uplift racism or condemn it? I want an answer based on the Vedas, Dharmashastras, Puranas and other primary religious texts.

4 Answers 4

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Hindu scripture doesn't have the concept of race. Hindus are classified into the four castes - Brahmins,Kshatriyas,Vaishyas and Sudras. Foreigners and barbarians would be classified as Mlecchas. Mlecchas maybe further classified by nationality - yavanas,hunas et al.

Some scriptures say caste is by birth, others by qualities.

Any references where varna/caste is determined independent of birth/parentage?

Except for rare instances like Basava - caste is largely approved of in Hindu scripture.

Does any Hindu scripture say anything to the effect "all men (and women) are created equal in dignity and rights"?

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  • @S K so is the caste system racially motivated like black people being Shudras or Brahmins being white? I do know that birth and others make a caste however is there such a case where skin colour makes your caste?
    – Rajam
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:06
  • This has been recorded in a reliable history - at least at the time of the Buddha Brahmins were supposed to be white: The Rig Vedic Aryas showed disdain for black people. hinduism.stackexchange.com/questions/26791/…
    – S K
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:10
  • @S K I often see racist criticisms of the Vedas saying that the Arayans hated the Dravidians or tribal people seeing your comment on this why do the Rig Vedic Arayans not like black people?
    – Rajam
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:13
  • @rajam Classs and Religion in Ancient India by Jayantanuja Bandyopadhyaya lays out the anti-black feelings of the vedic Aryas. but Sanskrit is infinitely elastic and there are interpretations that it is not actual darkness but spiritual darkness the Aryas were against.
    – S K
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:53
  • @S K what if it was referring to actual skin colour then why did the Vedic Arayans have not so good feelings for them?
    – Rajam
    Jun 16, 2023 at 20:21
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An interesting question. As SK said, Hinduism doesn't really have the concept of racism in its scripture, as most practitioners have historically been from the same country.

However, there are conflicting ideas about whether it is better to have dark skin or light skin.

A line in the Shiva Purana (7.1.24) implies that dark skin is bad:

Dark complexion is hated by good men. You too disapprove of it. Without wiping it off by dint of penance I am not inclined to stay here.

Yet at the same time, there are countless examples of dark-skinned characters being described as beautiful, like, for instance, Draupadi and Krishna.

More generally, we are told by scripture to remain without prejudice; as the Yoga Vashista tells us, the unprejudiced man is the noblest:

Try your best to destroy this prejudice of yours, and then you will know the truth. And verily such men are the greatest heroes and most learned in the world, who are freed from prejudices.


Coming to modern times, let's look at what today's gurus say. Swami Vivekananda doesn't explicitly condemn racism, but he clearly states that it is important to be tolerant:

I am proud to belong to a religion which has taught the world both tolerance and universal acceptance. We believe not only in universal toleration, but we accept all religions as true. I am proud to belong to a nation which has sheltered the persecuted and the refugees of all religions and all nations of the earth.

And guru Shri Shri Ravi Shankar has said:

Prejudice against any race or community is of dark ages. It is unfortunate that this prejudice still exists in spite of all the advancements. [link]


Let's value human life above race, religion & culture. [link]

So, in summary: Hinduism encourages tolerance and prejudice is bad, so racism probably is bad, too.

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  • so how do we interpret or resolve this contradiction on wether dark colour is good or not? Since you said there are different views on this and you pointed out one which contradicted with another so how do we resolve such a contradiction?
    – Rajam
    Jun 16, 2023 at 17:17
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    Racism doesn't means only hatred of blacks by whites. The reverse phenomenon is also possible.
    – অনু
    Jun 17, 2023 at 4:59
  • draupadi and krishna were not dark (black), they are described as blue in complexion.
    – ekAntika
    Apr 15 at 17:50
  • @Rajam racism defintitely wasn't there in Vedic times although other forms of discrimination and keep in mind I don't view discrimination as nessecarily a bad thing were indeed present. Also regarding color doesn't refer to literal color I forgot the verse in Manusmriti, but it talks about white cow not in terms of color, but spiritual purity.
    – Haridasa
    May 18 at 2:25
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Hinduism deals with liberation of the soul and teaches that the material body is temporary and has been awarded to the eternally bound jiva for the sole purpose of attaining Moksha.

The story quoted in one of the answers wherein it says "Dark complexion is hated by good men" is to be understood merely as a pastime (Lila) of Shiva and Parvati.

Here's another event where the black complexion of Bhudevi is glorified.

As per the regional legend of Makara Nedunkuzhaikathar Temple, once Lakshmi, the consort of Vishnu was left alone as he went to earth and lived with Bhudevi.

Lakshmi prayed to sage Durvasa to give her the beauty of Bhudevi. The sage went to meet Bhudevi, who was with Vishnu. She pretended not to have seen the sage. In his fury, the sage cursed Bhumidevi to transfer her complexion to that of Lakshmi devi's and thus reduced Her beauty in the eyes of Lord Hari.

Bhudevi pleaded with the sage to propitiate her off the curse. The sage asked her to pray to Vishnu through the Ashtaakshara Mantra on the banks of river Tamaraparani. On a new moon day, when she was performing the prayer in the river, she found a pair of earrings in the form of a fish. She offered it to Vishnu, who appeared before her. When Vishnu accepted the ear-ring, Bhudevi got her original divine black complexion.

Since Bhudevi offered her the makara kundala, the earrings, the presiding deity came to be known as Makara Nedunkuḻaikathar, the one who attained the ear rings.

Source: Sthalapuranam

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Racism is a modern concept. However, it is stated very clearly in Hindu scripture that there should be no discrimination against an entire community.

No discrimination

If a holy act is against the interest of other members of the society, it should not be practiced. It is Dharma which is the source of Artha and even of Kama.

Kurma Purana I.2.54

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