Is Rihanna's Topless Instagram Pic Hindu Cultural Appropriation Or Appreciation?

Photo: getty
Rihanna

Rihanna is being accused of cultural appropriation after posing topless while wearing a pendant depicting the Hindu god Ganesha. 

The singer shared the image on Instagram and Twitter to show off her purple satin underpants from her SavageXFenty lingerie collection.

But outraged social media users were focused on her choice of accessories. 

Her choice of jewelry included a string of oversized pearls and a large Ganesha pendant. 

Ganesha is a symbol of wisdom and is often called upon to invite success and prosperity. Across India and in other Hindu communities, statues of the deity are used for worship and prayer.

Ganesha is used widely in other religions and spiritualities, including Jains and Buddhism, however, which has sparked a debate about whether or not Rihanna is disrespecting Hindu culture. 

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Here’s what social media had to say about Rihanna’s controversial photo. 

The sacredness of Ganesha has caused some social media users to criticize Rihanna.

One comment on her Instagram read, “Rihanna, wearing an Indian deity is not a fashion, it's not a trend, it's about respecting Indian communities.”

On Twitter, many people pointed out that Rihanna’s choice of pose while wearing the pendant was particularly offensive as this is a symbol that many Hindus consider sacred and pure. 

This isn’t the first time Rihanna has upset her Indian fans this year. In early February, the singer drew criticism from her Indian supporters after she tweeted her solidarity with an Indian farmers protest. 

This prompted many to accuse her of being ill-informed and trying to divide India by encouraging people to protest against new laws implemented by the government about land use. 

One Twitter user pointed out that Rihanna’s recent Ganesha controversy exposes her lack of awareness or sensitivity toward Indian people. 

Others defended the singer in her Instagram comments thanking her for celebrating their culture on Ganesh Jayanti, the birth date of Ganesha, and saying, “I’m Hindu and I’m fine with it as long as she doesn’t disrespect Hinduism.” 

The singer has remained silent about the backlash so it’s impossible to know whether she was attempting to celebrate Hinduism or if this was just a complete lapse of judgment. 

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Other supporters pointed out that accusing Rihanna of sexualizing the symbol is a matter of personal opinion as many would argue the topless image is not sexual at all. 

This isn’t the first time Rihanna has been called out for disrespecting other religions.

Rihanna’s SavageXFenty brand was forced to issue an apology late in 2020 after offending the Islamic community during a lingerie fashion show. 

The show featured a song with sacred Islamic verses, sparking outrage amongst some Muslims who felt dancing in lingerie to the verses was making a mockery of their religion. 

Now, after continuing to disrespect religions and cultures, it’s possible that Rihanna has not taken the time to learn from her mistakes or listen to her fans from minority groups. 

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. She is a generalist with an interest in lifestyle, entertainment, and trending topics.