Apr 25, 2017 |

Colors are vital to our existence. It reminds us of our past, influences our present and shapes our future. Colors help establish a proper connection between these time periods. Colors have in fact modulated our historical events, religious and cultural beliefs, thus establishing itself as a self-explanatory symbol, also in our day to day activities across the world.



The color symbolism is the notion of using colors as a symbol to represent various characteristics of a religion which may differ across various cultures within the religion. The symbolism of color is based on cultural and religious beliefs and varies in countries all across the world. Traditionally, in a funeral, all individuals are dressed in black, the color of mourning that respects the departed soul. Conversely, particularly in South Asian countries, the white color is considered as a symbol of death, perhaps a belief based on Hinduism. However, in western culture, white is regarded as the color of wedding, explained by a Christian bride clad in a white gown. In Eastern countries, China as well as India and Nepal, the bride is usually seen wearing a red attire. The meaning of the same color varies according to the culture and tradition throughout the globe.

Religion is the most crucial element of a culture. A religion incorporates diverse cultures that hold the same religious beliefs despite the variation in some cultural traits or activities. Colors are interpreted differently in different religions. Therefore, it is important to identify the color associations of each religion to better understand the religion itself.

The oldest and the most prevalent religion of Nepal, Hinduism comprises of almost 80% of the Nepalese population. Hinduism is not a mere religion, it is the way of life. In Hinduism, colors transcends aesthetics and have a deeper meaning rooted to the origin of the religion and culture. In fact, all colors have certain physical, emotional and spiritual properties that are used liberally to depict various aspects of the religion itself. For instance, colors play a crucial role in the chief aspects of Hindu rituals. The red vermillion, yellow turmeric powder, white rice grains and green leaves are some of the ideal features of a religious ceremony. Similarly, colors have been used from time immemorial

to symbolize the qualities of Hindu deities which can be seen in their skin tone or the color choice of their clothing. Lord Vishnu, the Hindu deity of preservation, Lord Krishna and Lord Shiva, the god of destruction are colored blue. Whereas, most of the divinities including Lord Ganesh, the Hindu God with the head of elephant and Lord Krishna are seen in yellow colored garments.


Red: The most auspicious hue, red is one of the most important elements of religious ceremonies and festivals right from the birth, marriage to the death. Showering the idol or statue of God


with vermillion or 'Abir', a red powder is a vital form of prayer or pooja. Even in day to day activities, the red tika on the forehead is a symbol of blessing from the God. In Hinduism, red also represents the spiritual power with the potential to overcome or destroy evil. Therefore, Shakti, the divine female force of protection is often attired on a red clothing. The red hue is also the symbol of a married Hindu woman. While a Hindu bride is donned in a red saree, the red sindoor along her hairline and red henna on her hands is also a representation of the marriage. Moreover, at the time of death, the body of a woman is wrapped on a red clothing for cremation.

therefore yellow clothes are worn mostly at spring festivals to welcome the warm Sun after the cold winter.

White: The symbol of purity, white is the combination of all seven colors of the visible spectrum, hence possessing some of the characteristics of each. Smearing white ash on the forehead as a blessing from God is a holy Hindu ritual. The meaning behind this is that, the energy of the burning fire is retained as a residue in the white ash. Therefore, white connotes the interminable connection to the divine providing a spiritual rebirth along with the purification of body, mind and soul. Moreover, white is also used to indicate

Orange / Saffron: In Hinduism, the orange hue, or saffron is the symbol of spirituality and transcendence, which can be seen in the saffron robes of the Hindu priests (Swamis) and holy men. Also the color of purity, orange has its associations with the sacred fire that burns away all the impurities. Therefore, wearing this sacred color represents a quest for spiritual enlightenment.

Yellow: In Hinduism, while orange symbolizes fire, yellow is believed to integrate the eternal energy of the sun into its pigments. As the light of the sun banishes darkness and ignorance, thus instilling the knowledge of truth, yellow signifies clarity and understanding. The yellow garments of Hindu deities is also a true representation of supreme knowledge. Yellow is also the color of spring that activates the mind,

peace and knowledge, elucidated by Saraswati, the Hindu goddess of knowledge perching on a white lotus in a white ensemble. White is also the color of mourning, as individuals are seen in a white clothing at the time of cremation in most cultures.

Blue: In Hinduism, blue can be seen in the infinite beauty of our world, from the heights of the sky to the depths of the ocean. Representing the infinite presence of the supreme creative force, various Hindu deities are colored blue to indicate various characteristics such as bravery, determination and stability ascribed to them. Similarly, this cool, tranquil and reflective hue is eternal and everlasting, associated with the physical as well as spiritual world.

Green: The color of the nature, green symbolizes life and harmony with the ability to stabilize the mind. In Hinduism, the leaves from the sacred plants such as tulsi and peepal are considered holy and of great religious importance.

Indigo and Violet: Mandala, a ritual and spiritual symbol in Hinduism represents the universe and acts as a visual aid to meditation. Indigo and violet are used generously in mandalas that are known to intensify the experience of the meditation itself. These hues are believed to act as a guide to the path of enlightenment and are vital in understanding the true nature of our soul.

Buddhism is not merely a religion, it a dharma that embraces a set of beliefs, traditions and spiritual practices based on the teachings of Buddha. Buddhism is the second largest religion of Nepal, comprising of almost 11% of the Nepalese population. The most significant concept of color symbolism in Buddhism is the 'Rainbow body', which represents the highest level of meditative achievement other than Nirvana, where the body is transformed into pure light. The concept is based on the fact that the pure white light contains all the colors of the visible spectrum. Therefore, achieving a rainbow body, an essential goal for Buddhists, signifies the possession and meditation on all these colors, each symbolizing specific teachings.

Unlike other religions, the color symbolism in Buddhism establishes a connection of colors to different forms of Buddha. Blue, white, red, green and yellow, the principle colors of Buddhism are each aligned to a specific Buddha.


Blue: Blue is associated with Akshobhya, one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas, and the 'Blue Buddha' who is regarded as a healer. Blue is often used to implicate infinity, tranquility, purity, healing and wisdom that best describes the characteristics of Buddha as well. In Buddhism, the light and dark shades of the blue hue represent different characteristics. The turquoise stone, an example of the lighter shade is highly treasured with a major significance in the daily spiritual and religious activities.

A symbol of the blue sky and sea, wearing the sacred turquoise as a jewelry is believed to absorb sin, promising a safe journey that contributes to longevity. The color of the infinite sky represents limitless rise and lifts our spirits, yet the opacity of the stone offers wisdom of both the sky and the earth. Moreover, the stone changes its color as a result of exposure to light or body oil reminding us of human life and death.

'Blue Buddha', the Buddha of medicine or healing represents the darker shade of blue as a result of the deep blue color of lapis lazuli. Throughout history, the ornamental value of this precious stone has been exceedingly high, occasionally surpassing that of diamond through the year. Purity and rarity are some of the traits associated with the stone, perhaps because of the high reflectiveness and its resemblance

to the starry night sky. Additionally, lapis lazuli is equipped with the quality to suppress nervous conditions, inflammation or internal bleeding establishing itself as a stone of great healing power.

Red: In Buddhism, red is a symbol of sacredness used abundantly in the Buddhist temples both in the interior and exterior. The hue functions as a marker of religious areas commonly depicted by the majestic red entrances. Red also symbolizes fire, life force, preservation and most importantly protection, which is the reason monks are mostly seen wearing deep maroon robes. Amitabha, the Buddha of Limitless light is associated with the red hue signifying the fire element and an immeasurable life. Red represents the duality of life, for instance, fire which is the source of warmth and comfort can easily take the form of a destructive force.

Yellow: Along with red, yellow is also cherished in Buddhism because of the symbolic characteristics associated. Yellow, the color of the earth, characterizes stability as well as the balanced nature of the soul. As a contrast to red, the auspicious color saffron or yellow is also considered to be an orthodox for Buddhist monks' clothing. This color statement is regarded as a symbol of modesty, renunciation and 'desirelessness' which is one of the basic concepts of Buddhism. In the past, Buddha instilled the knowledge of reusing the 'pure cloth'- cloth discarded by the society ranging from shrouds of the dead to cloth damaged by fire. The usable cloth was then washed and dyed by boiling with vegetable substances including flowers, turmeric and saffron that resulted in a characteristic saffron hue. Therefore, the yellow clothing symbolized a separation from the materialistic society.

White: Alike other religions, white is regarded as the color of purity, knowledge and longevity in Buddhism. Vairocana, the celestial Buddha is often picturized in white, seated above a white lotus and moon to symbolize a pure consciousness. According to legend, before Buddha was born, his mother, Maya dreamt of a white elephant that circled her for three times holding a white lotus, before entering her womb. Perhaps because of this dream, a white elephant is considered to be an indication of fertility, a good fortune, purity and knowledge. Moreover, the religion holds the belief that Buddha, who was once residing as a bodhisattva in the heaven, descended on Earth in the form of the white elephant for a rebirth.

Green: Situated at the middle of the color spectrum, green represents balance and harmony. The color of the nature, green is regarded as a symbol of Karma or deed, youth and life. Amoghasiddhi, one of the Five Wisdom Buddhas characterizes the accomplishment of the Buddhist path and destruction of envy. He is portrayed in the green hue to either symbolize the air or wind element.

Black: Black is often used to symbolize anger, death, grief and mourning, however, the principle of Buddhism is to meditate upon these issues to come to an understanding, which ultimately leads to the path to enlightenment, truth and clarity. The black hue is not considered deleterious, as it serves as a reminder

of turning bad to good. Thangka, a form of Buddhist painting on cotton or silk, depicting a Buddhist deity, mandala or a scene frequently features the black color. Most thangkas are painted in a black background with gold outlines to make the painted hues stand out.

The Buddhist Flag:
First hoisted in Sri Lanka to unanimously represent Buddhism, the Buddhist flag has become a statement in monasteries as well as residences of Buddhists throughout the world. A universal symbol of peace and faith, the six colors used in the flag represents the 'aura' derived from Buddha's body as he attained enlightenment under the Bodhi tree. The horizontal stripes are the representation of harmony between the diverse races of the religion throughout the world. Whereas, the vertical stripes signify eternal world peace; and the colors symbolize the perfection of Buddha and his teachings- 'dharma'.

Blue: The radiation of blue light from Buddha's hair symbolizes warm kindness, peace and universal compassion for all beings.

Yellow: Buddha's epidermis radiates the yellow light, which signifies the Middle Path evading extremes and emptiness to achieve a balance.

Red: The emission of red light from Buddha's flesh indicates blessings from practicing teachings of Buddha. Success, wisdom, virtue, fortune and dignity are regarded as some of the several outcomes of the religion.

White: The bones and teeth of Buddha emitting the white light is a symbol of the purity of the dharma that leads to the path of liberation from time or space.

Orange: The emanation of orange light from the palms, heels and lips of Buddha represents the unwavering wisdom of Buddha's teachings.

The overall combination of the aforementioned colors symbolizes the universality of the truth of Buddhism and the teachings. Most importantly, the Buddhist flag demonstrates that everyone, irrespective of nationality, race, ethnicity or color are welcome to follow the path of Buddhism.

the interior as well as the exterior of the mosques all around the world are painted in green and gold to convey the same message. Moreover, Prophet Mohammad indicated a folkloric figure in his writings called al-Khidr, or "the Green One," who symbolizes immortality. The Islamic history is full of references of the green hue. Prophet Mohammad was said to have used a green banner with golden trimmings during his war on Mecca. The Islamic soldiers wore green clothing as an identification in campaigns.

White, the color of purity and peace is often worn by Muslim, especially during their Friday prayers. This religious reinforcement is based on the belief that death is inevitable and white is the only color that portrays simplicity. In some Muslim cultures, black is the color of modesty. Perhaps this is the reason why Muslim women mostly wear a black hijab, a veil used to cover their head, face or body as a symbol of modesty and privacy.

Islam, the monotheistic religion believes in the submission to one and unparalleled God, Allah. Almost 5% of the Nepalese are Muslim, making Islam the third largest religion of Nepal. Unlike other religions of the world, the color symbolism of Islam revolves around the sacred hue green which is also the symbol of the religion. Holi Quran, the central religious text of Islam consists of a green binding and the Sufi saints themselves are clad in green silk clothing. Green is believed to symbolize life and nature particularly in a dry desert.

Prophet Muhammad, the Islamic prophet considered as the last messenger of the Almighty God is often picturized in a green cloak and a turban. Green and gold are regarded as the colors of paradise as often mentioned in the Holy Quran. A passage from Holi Quran states that when finally reaching paradise in the afterlife, "ornaments shall be given to them therein of bracelets of gold, and they shall wear green robes of fine silk and thick silk brocade interwoven with gold, (18:31)" and they will be "Reclining on green cushions and beautiful carpets (55:76)." Therefore,

On the other hand, blue is regarded as a protective color in the Middle East used graciously in the mosques. Sultan Ahmed Mosque located in Istanbul, Turkey is popularly known as the Blue Mosque because of its vivid blue hue. Colors have an influence on the flags of Islamic countries, which feature either one or several Pan- Arab colors- black, red, white and green. Similarly, many Muslim flags incorporate a Crescent with a star either red, white or yellow


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