The sun is source of light, human body consists 70% of water, without soil vegetation cannot grow, living beings need air to breathe and sky is multi-hued. The basic elements in our environment consist the basic colors and are they are differently structured. The sense of colors is an extension of life. Each season has its color, therefore colors plays important role and it has been an important dimensions of human life.
India is known for her diversity and therefore the country is home to numerous interpretations and illustrations of symbols and colors. Colors represent different emotions of people living in different regional and geographical states. Each color has a different meaning and notion, and it differs from place to place. Some of the universally celebrated colors find their origins in the spices: turmeric which is used all over the country by each religion is yellow, it is also used in ceremonies and while offering prayers. Yellow symbolizes sanctity and is an essential herbal ingredient applied on the body and face by people. Cardamom is green, clove and pepper are black, chilies are red, cinnamon is dark brownish, coriander seeds and cumin are greenish brown, nutmeg is grayish brown so on and forth. Each spice has its color.
Indians are religious at heart; each god is associated with a complexion. Vishnu, Ram and Krishna are depicted in blue, the reason being blue is the color of the sky and of divinity. Whereas Shiva is fair, he is described as ‘Karpura-Goranga’ meaning he who is as fair as camphor. Most goddesses are fair complexioned except Kali. She is depicted in dark complexion.
India is an agrarian economy therefore green plays most important color. Green symbolizes a new beginning, harvest, and happiness. It is also the revered color of Islam which has a large religious presence in India. Green is a manifestation of God himself.
Some of the obvious differences between the perception of color in the West and the East are due to the simplest elements in history. Royalty, in the West and in the Christian culture, is represented by a deep, mystical shade of gray and purple, while in India, it is the deep hues of red and ochre that symbolize wealth and dignity. Perhaps one of the most affecting factors in the perception of colors in the Indian psyche is the religious undertones that coexist at almost every phase of life. India is steeped in tradition, culture, and a rich and a fabulous history. Kings and kingdoms, saints and followers, rebels and fighters have traversed the paths of its glorious past and they have all played an important role is forming the perception of colors.
Another fact why Indians are so obsessed with colors is because in ancient and medieval India textiles was the prime business. Some rulers were favorably inclined towards the arts and they encouraged weaving. Differentiation was made between the rural textiles woven for the masses and those made in state workshops for royalty and the well-to-do in other countries. The best workmanship was found in the ritual drapes for temples and palaces. Then, fabric names apparently represented the places where they were woven, and details about weaving techniques were not recorded.
It was Marco Polo who left detailed accounts of the people and industries of the coastal regions of India in the late thirteenth century. He has mentioned after seeing the Coromandel Coast the finest and most beautiful cloth in all the world-buckrams like the tissues of spider webs, and he observed dyeing with indigo in the great textile center of Cambay and spinning of cotton in Gujarat. Under the Sultan of Delhi (1325-1351) price controls for food, cloth, and other commodities were initiated to help fight inflation. A permit was required to buy silks, satins, and brocades, and only the well-to-do were allowed to have them. The sultan employed four thousand silk weavers who made robes of honor, hangings, and gifts of gold brocade for foreign dignitaries.
Even today Indian textile heritage has been preserved by the women’s sari, which often reveals fine weaving, delicate textures, beautiful colors, and rich patterns. A formal sari might be of silk or a cotton which is brocaded in floral patterns formed with many tiny bobbins, each holding a different color. Some saris are exquisitely block printed with gold or silver floral sprays or show allover spot patterns of tie-dye. Kanjivaram, Dhakai, Paithani, Sambalpuri, Pattu, Asssam Silk, Banarasi, Poachampally, Gota, Chanderi……..the list is big. Each saree is woven with the threads of tradition. They are famous more for their tradition and culture than a mere fashion. There is a legacy behind every type of saree. The “rani” pink of mystical Rajasthan, the pastel hues of southern India, the joyous, bright hues of the northern frontier, and the balmy bright colors of the east offer a multicolored insight into an almost perfect blend of history and modernism. And perhaps a trip down its many roads will lead to an understanding of its pulse.
Colors usually symbolize anxiety, conformity, faith, joy and trust. India remains colorful and vibrant in more ways than one. It stands strong as perhaps the most enduring example of unity in a world in its diversity. The colors hold it together are the colors of faith, pride, and love – feelings that overcome all differences. Black in India has connotations with lack of desirability, evil, negativity, and inertia. It represents anger and darkness and is associated with the absence of energy, barrenness, and death. Black is used to ward off evil. This can be found in an age old custom where you see little black color kajal spot on infant’s cheek, for that matter, anyone looking really spectacular is often seen with a little black dot on the chin or under the ear to ward off the evil eye.
White is the absence of color; white, as a color, repels all light and colors and therefore, when a person wears white, he/she disconnects from the pleasures and luxuries of active and normal participation in society. We usually see the devout and pious people use the white color. It is an inherently positive color associated with purity, virginity, innocence, light, goodness, heaven, safety, brilliance, illumination, understanding, cleanliness, faith, beginnings, sterility, spirituality, possibility, humility, sincerity, protection, softness, and perfection. In short friends, colors have their effect on us to the extent that they stimulate even our highest-level thoughts and intelligence.