Rihanna’s topless Hindu god photo sparks outrage in India

Rihanna recently upset the Indian government by commenting on the huge farmers' protests [Danny Moloshok/Reuters]
Rihanna recently upset the Indian government by commenting on the huge farmers’ protests

Pop icon Rihanna has been accused of mocking a Hindu god after she was pictured topless with a pendant of Ganesha around her neck.

Images of the lingerie photoshoot, that sparked a furore in India, came just weeks after Rihanna upset the Indian government by commenting on the huge farmers’ protests. The latest tweet to the superstar’s more than 100 million Twitter followers is part of promotions for Rihanna’s lingerie line Savage X Fenty.

The photo was also shared on her Instagram account, which has 91.4 million followers. Social media users and politicians in India said her post was “derogatory”, accusing her of disrespecting Hindu gods and hurting local sentiment.

“It’s appalling to see how @Rihanna shamefully mocks our beloved Hindu God #Ganesha,” tweeted Ram Kadam, a state legislator from Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Hindu-nationalist party. “This exposes how #Rihanna has no idea or respect for Indian culture, tradition and our issues here.”

The right-wing World Hindu Council said it had filed police complaints against Facebook and Twitter for hosting the picture and demanded action against Rihanna’s social media accounts. Several followers on Rihanna’s social media accounts questioned her fashion statement.

“You’re wearing a deity necklace and a Murthi [image of a deity] of my culture that’s already been culturally appropriated enough in the past few years,” said one follower.

“How is this okay when a person has more than enough resources to at least find out the meaning and significance of the chains and pendant around their neck?” Ganesha is highly revered in Hinduism, and is meant to be worshipped in temples or at home shrines. Some Hindus wear Ganesha pendants as a symbol of their faith, but they do not adorn them as fashion accessories.

Earlier this month, tweets from Rihanna and other celebrities on protests in India by farmers against new agriculture laws sparked anger at India’s foreign ministry, which called their comments “sensationalist”.

Critics say Hindu nationalism has been on the rise in officially secular India under Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party.

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