Indian women are dressing up like their Indian counterparts in order to look more Indian and feel more Indian, but it is not always easy, a study has found.
Researchers at the National Institute of Human and Child Health (NICHE) conducted a study on Indian women, who were asked to wear traditional outfits that had snakes, cats, and birds on them.
The study found that the women were more likely to consider themselves Indian if they had the appearance of the snakes, said Dr Manoj Kumar, one of the study’s authors.
“If we compare the Indian female with her Caucasian counterpart, the Indian woman would be considered a snake-person,” Dr Kumar told Al Jazeera.
The snakes on the Indian women’s outfits were painted or adorned with snakes, he said.
Dr Kumar, who also worked at the Indian Institute of Science (IISc), said that Indian women wearing snakes in their outfits was a way of presenting themselves as being more Indian.
“The snakes are part of their identity and they are part in their community,” he said, adding that Indian men also wore snakes in the outfits.
“Indian men are very proud of their snakes, and the snakes represent the male pride.”
The study, which was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, also looked at the attitudes of Indian women who were also wearing snakes, such as the mothers who would have the children dressed up in a different attire to the Indian mothers, and children who were dressed up as snakes.
The study found the mothers were more willing to share their snake skin with their children if they felt that the mother was Indian, said the study, written by Dr Manish Parekh and Dr Srinivas Anand, two researchers at the NICHE.
“Their relationship with their snakes is also more intense than that of their Caucasian counterparts,” said Dr Kumar.
Dr Parekkh said that this is the first time that Indian researchers have examined the way women dress and interact with their own culture in a global setting.
“When we started the study we had no idea how many people in the US are wearing snakes,” he told Aljazeera.
“In our study, we found that Indian mothers were more interested in their Indian children’s appearance than their Caucasian counterpart.
The Indian mothers are very happy when their children look like Indian.””
Indian mothers were also very happy to share the skin with the children if the child looks like Indian,” he added.
Dr Anand said that although snakes are symbolic of India, they were also a symbol of Western cultures.
“It is not just a symbol to them, it is a cultural practice,” he explained.
“A mother might dress up in snakes to make her child look Indian, and then a child will then look like a snake,” he continued.
“They may wear snakes on their head and body, but not their feet.”
Dr Kumar said that a mother would often wear a snake on her forehead, as a way to remind her children to stay away from snakes.
“They are very scared of snakes and they have this fear of going into the forest, which is where they are supposed to be,” he observed.
“But snakes are very common and we are all scared of them.”
The researchers said that their study shows that Indian culture and culture are often linked, but also that there is a degree of cultural bias.
“Many Indian men do not feel Indian, or they see themselves as Indian,” said the researchers.
“I believe that in the end, they are looking at the skin of a snake, not a Western woman,” Dr Parechkh said.
“So it is really interesting that we have seen that Indian parents share their children’s skins and then their children do the same with their parents.”