School-level physics teaches us that an object appears black because it absorbs all light, and white because it reflects back the same. Like the night which hides a lot of ugliness, black is inclusive. Whether the light comes from the violet hue of the rainbow or the red, black happily swallows all the different colours.
Each culture has its own taboo as far as colours are concerned. Westerners mourn in black while many easterners do in white. Red seems to be a universal colour of celebration. Eastern brides use red as their favourite colour. Red also stands for the fecundity of menstruation, which denotes that a girl has passed into womanhood and is, consequently, able to bear children. The continuation of the human species is aptly named bloodline rather than seedline, even though it is the male who is capable of impregnating many with just a drop of his semen. The outer walls of Indian temples are coloured red and white, as they denote the male and female aspects of fertility.
It is the ascetic Shiva who is associated with the colour white. The remote mountains He resides on (far from global warming) have their eternal turban of snow and ice. Being withdrawn from time, action and reaction, Shiva, considered to be Lord of Destruction, is the One that stands for SatwaGuna, or purity.
The root of the word ‘Vishnu’ means to spread. Maha Vishnu is often portrayed lying supine on the three-coiled mattress of Shri AadiShesha, the Serpent who stands for the past, present and future in time. The ten incarnations of Vishnu stand for evolution. The first sign of life is found in the oceans and He makes his debut as the Holy Fish. Vaamana, the boy-man form of Vishnu, is the first foray (of his avatar) into the species of homo sapiens. From there the progress is rapid. Kalki, the tenth incarnation of Maha Vishnu, yet to occur, hints at being a Superman, well clued into futuristic technology.
Brahma, the Creator, is the one Divinity, enmeshed in the sweet but deadly web of maya. As such, He engenders activity with His job of creation, which in turn brings about karma. The whole of mortal life, unless handled judiciously, is an obstacle to self-realisation. Born in the stalk of the mystic lotus, springing out of Maha Vishnu’s navel, Brahma is totally confused until He hymns the Divine Mother. Pleased at Brahma’s frenzied shloka that runs, “ThwamSwaaha, ThwamSwadhaa,” the Divine Mother assigns Brahma with the chore of creation.
The Mother Goddess has three broad divisions of being Saraswathi (the Goddess of Learning), Lakshmi (the Goddess of Wealth) and Kali (the Goddess of Valour), whose favouritecolours are White, Red and Black, respectively. The kriya, or the practical application part of Shri AadiShankara’s hymn about the Mother Goddess, the Soundaryalahari, exhorts devotees to recite a particular stanza, wearing certain coloured clothes, for some specific results.
Wearing prescribed colours for defined occasions is considered to be highly beneficial. On Sunday, as the name itself suggests, it is the Sun which is the dominant planet. Golden, yellow or orange colours are to be worn on that day for a little bit of extra luck. Monday, the day of the Moon, is the day for white and silver. Tuesday, the day of Mars, the War God, is for red; Wednesday, that of Mercury, for green; Thursday, that of Jupiter, for yellow; Friday, the day of Venus, for cream and white;and Saturday, that of Saturn, for black or blue.
There is a temple dedicated to the nine planets called Suryanaar Kovil near Kumbhakonam in Tamil Nadu. The Sun and the rest of the planets are in perfect alignment here. One of the most popular offerings here is to worship Surya, the Sun God, with red flowers; Jupiter right opposite with yellow, white, green, red, blue; and so on.
Just as a balanced combination of wisdom, wealth and valour is essential for a fruitful life, it is the combination of various colours which make creation vibrant. The white of Shiva, the gold or yellow of Vishnu, the red and white of female and male reproducing agents, all come together to make for a vividly colourfuluniverse.
Some scholars are also of the opinion that these colours stand for various human races—white, yellow, brown (from shades of red) and black. When one race preens at its own superiority over another one, it would do humanity good to remember that the matter of colour is just that one shade their skin reflects from the visual spectrum!