Pancha Varna – Five Auspicious Colours in Our Tradition

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Panchavarnada Itihasa Tippanigalu – Notes on the Five Colours

Author:  K. V. Rajagopal

Place: Uttara kannada, Dakshina Kannada, Mudabidri

Notes from the Author:

Yellow, Green, Red, White and Black (Indigo)- called Pancha Varna – are of auspicious consideration specially in the context of the classical Jain texts and Hindu Rituals. The 24 Jain Thirtankaras are identified with these five colours. These five colours are considered mystic ; 16 Thirthankaras are marked as yellow coloured, and two each of the remaining eight with red, white, green and black. The Vishnu Dharmottara Puranam, along with Jaina Sastrasara Samucchayam speak of these five colours as important for ritualistic as well as art purposes. In fact, our oriental and religious activities give much importance to these five colours. A lexicon, Amarakosha, while mentioning fifty and more shades of colours has recognised these five colours alone as basic. The Buddhistic, Jaina and Hindu forms of expressions are mostly in these five colours only. A practice like Nagamandala in South Canara (Karnataka) has its stage (ground) decorated with only these five colours.  The five colours in practice are capable of expressing the chief moods of our cultural temperament. This cannot be far from the ideas of rasa and perhaps because of Jainism, these colours have a permanent place in our cultural expressions. These five colours are as old as the Vedic times and were very important in all walks of life.

These notes are prepared in connection with a book on art-facts of Tuluva culture, edited by me for the Lalithakala Academy, Karnataka, the Chief Editor being R. M. Hadapad, Chairman of the Adademy during 1989. The following areas are covered in the above discussion and notes : (1) Jaina stuccos of Mudabidri, S. Kanara, (2) Nagamandala and Dakkebali of S. Kanara, (3) Bhuta cult in South Canara, (4) Chaurapanchashika paintings, (5) Six paintings of Bhutas by A. C. Burnell (1882), (6) Native ingredients in five colours , (7) Mangalya or Tali and Mangaladravyas including the ritualistic term ‘Muthaide’ in Kannada, (8) Poet Pampa and his Adipuranam in Kannada -a 10th century work, and (9) Sankhya Sabdamanjari, Sanskrit work.

The paper also discusses the traditional methods of preparation of these natural colours.


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