What are the differences in beauty and culture between Indian and Western women and how do they influence Indian women?
Increasing globalization and market dominance of the Western world as a huge impact on traditional culture, including ideals of beauty and aesthetics. In India, traditional values of beauty vary from region to region. Generally, classical beauty in India values women with full lips, expressive eyes, full physique, and thick, black hair. The 16th century Ananga-Ranga has an entire passage dedicated to describing what makes a woman beautiful. Mentioned are traits like clean teeth, small ears, wide hips but a trim waist, and a sweet voice. In contrast, the same passage describes the following as ugly: a woman with facial hair, yellowed eyes, being notably tall or short, and having a temper.
In the same time period, Western women were subject to similar valuation of their personality traits, and in both cultures women with mild tempers and sweet voices were considered preferable. Both cultures (pre-colonial India and Renaissance Europe) also had a similar taste for women who were of a certain voluptuous form, as long as it did not lead to excess of the body. One major difference between Indian and European beauty ideals of the time is that in Europe, the complexion was expected to be much lighter. Women with alabaster skin and golden blonde or reddish hair were considered to be most beautiful.
Since the colonial period, Indian women have been increasingly subject to the beauty standards of the Western world. In the context of colonization (and even post-colonial society) the colonizer has more power in determining what is beautiful or valuable in society. As such, a woman might do well to appeal to the colonizer's ideals of beauty. In particular, skin tone and complexion have become major indicators of both class and beauty. From the colonial period onward, fair skin indicated being of higher class because it either meant a person was of Anglo descent or could afford a lifestyle which allowed them to keep their skin a light color through using skin creams or avoiding sunlight. This ideal persists in India today, and many creams which lighten the skin are readily available and encouraged to young women. Indian women are also influenced by the Western ideal of women with slim bodies, as portrayed in media. Though the ideal of wide hips and a full bust persists in Indian beauty, women are increasingly dieting or purchasing garments which alter the shape of the body in order to appear thinner in a particular body part.
In order to be considered attractive and succeed in a highly competitive world, Indian women are increasingly pressured to appeal to Western beauty ideals, though some traditional values do remain.