India has a culture that is rich with traditions, festivals, and colors. Its images are saturated, and its history dense. When speaking about India Mark Twain said, “India is the cradle of the human race, the birthplace of human speech, the mother of history, the grandmother of legend, and the great grand mother of tradition. Our most valuable and most astrictive materials in the history of man are treasured up in India only!”
Well Mr. Twain…well said.
Through out the semester I have been studying and researching the industrial city of Coimbatore. Coimbatore is the 3rd largest city in the Indian state of Tamil Nadu. Shown right. “According to ancient manuscripts, Coimbatore’s history can be traced to the Irula tribal chief Kovan and his clan who were it’s earliest settlers and the founders of “Kovanpatti” a part of Kongunadu.” Over time this became Coimbatore, which is also known at Kovai.
Coimbatore is most known for its booming textiles industry, which is embedded deeply in the cities roots. “Cotton cultivation and production is recorded from second millennium BC and the earliest urban civilization of the subcontinent… As Indian textiles established themselves as an increasingly significant trade commodity, prized from China to Mesopotamia for their brilliance of colour, unparalleled colour fastness, fineness of weave and rich variety of designs, the weaving of various fibres also received further impetus.”
In Coimbatore, there are currently more than 30,000 textile mills. It is one of the top 10 fastest growing cities in India. According to Coimbatore city’s website, Coimbatore, is the hub of textile spinning and weaving mills. this has gotten it known as Manchester of South India. Do to the growing needs of the textile market, Many textile mills has upgraded their textile machinery and increased their capacity.
Despite the 2 percent rise in Indian cotton prices, “India is now seen exporting about eight million bales of cotton, mostly to Pakistan and China, in the year to September 2011, up from earlier estimates of about 3 million bales, trade officials said.”
Indian culture is steeped with exquisite and extravagant traditions and festivals Holi – the festival of colors – is undoubtedly the most beautiful and magical Hindu festival to research. “It’s an occasion that brings in unadulterated joy and mirth, fun and play, music and dance, and, of course, lots of bright colors”
Holi is an ancient festival of India that occurs during the last months of winter. It celebrates colors, rituals, the spring, and the full moon. “Holi helps to bring the society together and strengthen the secular fabric” of India. It also hits a sweet spot with cannabis lovers, as there is a widespread participation of “bhang” -spiced cannabis mixed into a delicious looking milk beverage.
“Also, the tradition of the Holi is that even the enemies turn friends on Holi and forget any feeling of hardship that may be present. Besides, on this day people do not differentiate between the rich and poor and everybody celebrate the festival together with a spirit of bonhomie and brotherhood.
In the evening people visit friends and relatives and exchange gifts, sweets and greetings. This helps in revatalising relationships and strengthening emotional bonds between people.”
“In earlier times when festival celebrations were not so much commercialized Holi colors were prepared from the flowers of trees that blossomed during spring, such as the Indian Coral Tree (parijat) and the Flame of the Forest (Kesu), both of which have bright red flowers. These and several other blossoms provided the raw material from which the brilliant shades of Holi colours were made. Most of these trees also had medicinal properties and Holi colors prepared from them were actually beneficial to the skin.”
“Over the years, with the disappearance of trees in urban areas and greater stress for higher profits these natural colours came to be replaced by industrial dyes manufactured through chemical processes.” As you would assume these chemical’s do not have the same healing or beneficial effects. This is a cautionary chart from the Holifestival.org. Also on their website is a list of body friendly colors that they suggest people use during the celebrations.
Another, less colorful festival is the Saraswatu Puja Festival.
“Saraswati Puja is the ritual worship of the goddess Saraswati. The festival is celebrated in the month of January-February in India. Saraswati is considered the goddess of knowledge and learning. Saraswati literally means ‘the flowing one’. The color yellow is given special importance on this day. On this day, Saraswati is dressed in yellow garments and worshipped. People prefer to wear yellow clothes on this holy day. Sweets of yellowish color are distributed among relatives and friends. The youngest girl of the family wears a yellow saree as a custom.”
AMONG THE MANY FESTIVALS IS ALSO THE TAMIL FESTIVAL. “As Coimbatore gears up for the World Classical Tamil Conference, the city sports a colourful mood with murals depicting Tamil culture on the roadside walls.” One such illustration can be seen on the left . Tamil is a language native to India, and this region as well as surrounding places such as Sri Lanka.
From festivals to rituals, Indian culture is truly invested in the effects and meanings of color. The Hindu concept of Chakras is an example of how colors are used to connect and illustrate one’s self and center with colors. Starting in the 11th Century, the number of major chakras has shifted as the concept has spread, generally landing at 6 or 7 as a standard number.
Beyond chakras, certain colors take on other roles in Coimbatore’s society. Red is an example of one such color.
“In Indian tradition, the color red signifies purity, joy and celebration. Indian culture considers red the color of happiness and prosperity and believes red attracts good luck. For these reasons, Indian brides traditionally wear red at their weddings. The combination of gold and red represents wealth and good fortune.”
Another color is Saffron. Kashmiri saffron, shown to right is a highly sought after color. These are bundles of the flowers dried stigma. This highly effective, and expensive strand of colorant is not found outside of India.
Buddhist monks in the Theravada tradition don saffron robes.
Furthermore, the top stripe on the Indian Flag is a color which is officially called deep saffron.
Originally, only natural and herbal colors were used for pigment production. Saffron, cadmium red, bond black, and indian yellow are examples of this. However, limited recourses, a growing market, and consumer needs and desires for more saturated and longer lasting colors has driven the market towards synthetic color production. Many of these pigments, paints and dyes can have physical effects on the users including poisoning, sickness, blindness and death. yikes!
Such side effects put users such as artists, crafters, fabric dyers, make-up wearers, and artificially colored food eaters…so basically everyone at risk. As a result of the knowledge of this information, many green, eco friendly, or user friendly products are popping up. One group of scientists in Coimbatore are researching this very topic.
According to the Department of Agricultural Microbiology, Tamil Nadu Agricultural University, Coimbatore, “There is worldwide interest in process development for the production of pigments from natural sources due to a serious safety problem with many artificial synthetic colorants, which have widely been used in foodstuff, cosmetic and pharmaceutical manufacturing processes. Many fungi have been reported to produce non-carotenoid pigments but only a few of those have been explored as possible food colorants”
The group recently published an article on cotton dyeing methods in “Fibers and Polymers” titled: “Dyeing of cotton yarn with five water soluble fungal pigments obtained from five fungi”. According to the abstract, The present study aimed to assess the potentiality of water soluble fungal pigments for dyeing on cotton yarn.
The chemists use the five fungi to create color and had the most luck with red and yellow. Two colors that are difficult to have good saturation levels of. These Coimbatorians could be on to a good design solution and alternative to synthetic processes.
Researching and seeing India via a computer screen is not the best way to know a place. But, it does serve its purpose. There is so much to learn and know that can only be obtained through experience. Needless to say, I would love to go to Coimbatore and experience it first hand. Especially during the Holi the festival of colors.