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Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover
07 th Nov 2015

While a famous idiom advises us to not judge a book by its cover, the culture of India has evolved with certain unwritten rules for fabrics that cover us.

A person can be easily deciphered by what he or she is wearing in the culture of India.

Attires in distinct colours or fabrics evoke social judgement, and stand for conforming to certain beliefs.

In ancient India, the attires clearly demarcated the financial status of an individual. Fine fabrics like silk, satin, and finer varieties of muslin, were reserved for the elite and the privileged. The common people mostly preferred locally made attires, from locally available raw materials like cotton.

With the increase in disposable income of the middle class today, it is difficult to gauge the social financial standing of a person. In an Indian metro, people dress up according to the season and occasion. However during traditionally relevant events the fabrics bring the religious and social indications attached with them, to the fore.

It is important to be aware of the cultural relevance associated with fabrics to avoid wearing the wrong attire at the wrong place. In the culture of India, more than the type of the fabric, the colour of the fabric stirs strong social and religious sentiments.

Pristine White

A Hindu funeral is dominated by simplistic white attires. White is considered as a lack of colour, which in turn indicates lack of feelings. While wearing white for funerals is not enforced in all communities of India, it is better to avoid this colour at celebratory events like weddings, especially pure whites, which stand for mourning.

In ancient India, widows adopted plain white attires after the demise of their husbands. So, white is an antonym for matrimony. Even today as per the culture of India, a newly married bride would be advised to avoid whites by the elders as it is considered to be an inauspicious colour for longevity of marriage.

The state of Kerala is an exception, where brides wear ivory and gold saree instead of vibrant colours owing to their traditional legacy of hand woven cotton which was yellowish white in colour. The Catholics of India, like the Christians across the world, adopt white for bridal wear. Christianity associates white with purity.

For men, in the culture of India, white has favourable symbolic nuances. Brahmin men (involved with spiritual work) usually wear white as it denotes cleanliness and purity. Socially respectable men like village chiefs, landlords, and local affluent men like to cover themselves in white from head to toe through white turbans or caps, kurtas or shirts and dhotis or lungis. Even eminent political leaders give preference to white as it displays an untarnished image.

In the culture of India, the Goddess of knowledge and academia, Goddess Saraswati is dressed in white, which indicates non-materialistic, spiritual well being of the mind and body.

White Fabric Worn in Times of Mourning | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

Ravishing Red

Red is the colour of matrimony according to the culture of India. Red embellished attires are always favoured as the wedding outfit for an Indian bride especially in the North. Red sindoor, red bindi and red bangles adorned by married Indian women signify the bond of marriage.

Red is also the colour of blood and so it symbolises life and vibrancy. The deity of wealth, Goddess Lakshmi, who is depicted in a red saree, implies that red is a colour of prosperity and affluence.

Red Fabric Symbolises Life and Vibrancy | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

Gregarious Green

Green is a symbol of lush nature and fertile land, in the culture of India. So green is associated with prosperity, especially in the farming communities. It is believed to bring fertility and abundance to the wearer. Hence it is a colour preferred for bridal attires and the practice predominates in the Maharashtrian community.

Green is also a revered colour in Islam, as it is considered to be the favourite colour of Prophet Muhammad.

Green Fabric Symbolises Fertility | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

Austere Orange / Saffron

In the culture of India, this is a colour of the ascetic. The Hindu monks and sages use unstitched fabrics in saffron colour to cover themselves. The colour signifies sacrifice or renunciation for the well being of the society in Hinduism. The Buddhist monks also patronise this colour.

Saffron is also the colour of fire, which is considered sacred in Hinduism. Fire is the destructor of evil, darkness and brings in light according to the culture of India.

Many political parties in India which consider themselves as the forebears of Hinduism use orange colour in their party’s signage.

Saffron Fabric Symbolises Sacrifice | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

Sacred Yellow

Yellow is an auspicious colour according to the culture of India. It is the colour of turmeric which is used in religious rituals and the colour is called as ‘pitambar’ in Sanskrit. The deities like Lord Ganesha are dressed in ensembles of this holy colour. The Hindu priests also favour this colour in their attires.

All the vibrant colours like red, yellow, green and orange have auspicious undertones in the culture of India and dressing up in such colours for occasions like weddings and baby showers infer that you partake in offering good wishes to the celebrating family.

Yellow Fabric is Considered to be Auspicious | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

Indigenous Indigo

Ancient India was a leader in the trade of indigo dye across the world and the ancient books on castes in India, have allocated indigo as the colour of the Shudra or backward caste. This belief has no appeal today but the political parties working towards the upliftment of backward communities use this colour as their symbol. With time, the colour connotations attached with fabrics in the culture of India, are slowly fading away due to blurring class divide, especially in the cosmopolitan cities.

In the modern India, blue stirs cricket sentiments for the fans of this popular game as it is the official colour of the Indian cricket team.

Blue Fabric is Worn by the Indian Cricket Team | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

Wicked Black

While black is a celebrated colour in the fashion scenario, traditionally it is an ominous colour. Black is associated with dark sentiments and it denotes sadness and evil, universally. In the culture of India too, black attires are worn to mourn death, in some communities.

Black is also incorporated in certain jewelleries like infant bracelets and mangalsutra to ward off evil. The devotees of Lord Shani and Lord Ayyappa also use black to appease their deities in the culture of India.   

Black Fabric is Worn During Times of Mourning | Culture of India: Judge a book by its Cover

While Indians display favouritism towards vibrant tones, the elderly men and women prefer using fabrics with subtle or neutral shades for their attires. The regional arts used on the fabric, also show its origin; for example, Bandhani can be traced to Gujarat, Kanjeevaram leads us down south and Benarasi brocade speaks of the legacy from Uttar Pradesh. Attires in India can speak for the wearer’s native place, age, marital status, social status, political views and religious beliefs, over and above personal taste.

The poignant thing about the culture of India is the blending of the various hues of fabrics irrespective of the diverse faiths harboured by the country. These different hues with different social and religious connotations have made the culture of India more colourful and vibrant.  

Our website, offers attires in different fabrics and colours in sync with the culture of India, for those special Indian occasions.

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