Rihanna is facing backlash over a recent Instagram post, which saw her wearing a pendant depicting the Hindu god Ganesha. The star has been accused of cultural appropriation and of disrespecting the Hindu religion by some of her followers.
The picture that has drawn criticism sees Rihanna wearing a pair of Savage x Fenty lilac boxer shorts, along with a mix of bright and bold jewellery, including the pendant in question. The caption to the photo read: "when @popcaanmusic said 'me nuh wan ya wear no lingerie tonight fa me girl'" and tagged Savage x Fenty.
Both Instagram and Twitter users have expressed anger at the fact Rihanna chose to wear the pendant. One comment, which has garnered thousands of 'likes' from fellow users, read: "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."
They added: "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?"
Another remarked: "Our culture is not your costume."
By contrast, others commented their appreciation for Rihanna's snap, and one wrote that they were "fine with [her] wearing this as long as [she] respect[s] Hinduism."
Ganesha — a god who takes the form of a human body with an elephant head — has a deep spiritual symbolism within Hinduism. The elephant head represents wisdom and understanding, while the human body (which possesses a human heart) is a symbol of kindness and compassion toward all.
Rihanna's decision to post the photo comes a few short weeks after she showed her support for farmers in India who are protesting new agriculture laws within the country. Tens of thousands of Indian farmers have been protesting in Delhi now for nearly three months.
The singer threw her support behind the protesters by posting a Tweet linking to a news story about the situation, alongside the words: "Why aren't we talking about this?!"
While the Tweet gained nearly a million likes, backlash from Indian government was swift.
The photograph of Rihanna wearing the pendant has resulted in some suggesting she has discredited her support for the farmers in India (a majority Hindu country). Lawmaker Ram Kadam, a member of the country's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), wrote on Twitter for example:
"It's appalling to see how @Rihanna shamefully mocks our beloved Hindu God #Ganesha. This exposes how #Rihanna has no idea or respect for Indian culture, tradition and our issues here. Hopefully, at least now @RahulGandhi and other Congress leaders will stop taking help from her."
In October last year, Rihanna was caught up in another controversy involving religion when she played the track "Doom" at her second Savage X Fenty show. The track was originally released in 2017 and uses a remix of a Hadith scripture about judgment day. This caused backlash from Muslim viewers as the Hadith, a collection of traditions and sayings from the Prophet Muhammad, is extremely sacred in the Muslim religion and comes second only to the Quran in terms of religious texts. Rihanna apologised to fans for playing the song.
The singer is yet to comment on the Ganesha pendant.