India is not only known for its street culture and ancient folk tales but also for its exquisite colours that decorate everything from interiors to Indian designer clothes, street art and elephants. India is alive with colour! Although India is incredibly diverse and culturally vibrant it is the vast selection of colours that ties all of these elements together and is understood by all, regardless of caste, outlook and traditions. The symbolism of these colours dominates almost every aspect of Indian life from politics, religion to celebrations and festivals.
Some of the symbolic meanings of colours are quite straight forward and are similar to other cultures for example black in India has negative connotations of anger and darkness and is associated with death and lack of energy. Black is often used to ward of evil. Young children will often be blessed with a little black dot under their ear or on their chin, which is meant to protect them from evil.
The symbolism for white is totally different in India as it is in the west. In India white Indian designer clothes are worn to funerals. This is because white repels light and is devoid of colour and so it shows a way of disconnecting oneself from the luxuries and pleasures of life. However it is not a negative colour and often means peace and purity and is meant to be a contrasting colour to the meaning of red in southern India meaning disruption and violence.
Red is associated with the goddess Durga, one of the most highly esteemed goddesses in Hindu mythology. She has a fiery image, which is enhanced by her red tongue and red eyes. Red also represents purity, which is why it is the preferred colour for a bride’s Indian designer clothes. Red commemorates the unity between the couple and symbolizes fertility and prosperity.
The colour blue is associated with Lord Krishna, one of the most favoured gods in India. Also as expected the colour green signifies harvest.
The main differences between the perception of colour in the West and the East are due to particular elements in history. For example Christian culture and royalty in the west is represented by deep shades of purple, however in India, red and ochre Indian designer clothes represent wealth.