white as unblemish

N. Ganesan naga_ganesan at HOTMAIL.COM
Thu Dec 7 12:06:23 UTC 2000

>White is not so much colour of mourning as of unblemish.Widows wear white
>not because they are in mourning.They are asked to wear white so that they
>remain  unblemished.Any stain on white will show immediately. Because of
>this association, married women are forbidden to wear pure white.
>Rajesh Kochhar

If so, married men will ask their wives to wear white
since any man will want his wife to remain unblemished.

ancient Indian texts show white to be the color of
mourning, and widows are prescribed that color.

Prof. G. v. Simson wrote:
But white as the colour of mourning is not unknown in the West either.
A shroud is typically white, so are flowers used at funerals, and
coffins may be white (but normally not yellow or green or blue). White
may indicate the absence of (colourful) life, and poets thus compare
the snow covering a landscape in winter with a shroud. [...] but lots
of old houses and castles in England are haunted by a "white woman".
White is the typical colour (or rather absence of colour) of a ghost
and it is also associated with lack of health  and fear.

I agree with Prof. Simson that white is the color of ghosts.
Siva, red in color (Cf. drav. kem- = red/good) is seen white
when he is full of mayaana ashes and as in Europe ash smeared
Siva is compared to Mt. Kailash draped in white snow.
Sangam poetry (again as in Europe) associates white with
lack of health.

JayamkoNTaar in the 11th century ridicules Kaapaalikas-Paashupatas
for coming into towns to frighten women and children.
He tells looking at them wearing white bones, white kapaala,
white arka (< tam. erukku) flowers, white pULai flowers and white ash,
people will be afraid as though a crematorium starts
walking with two legs into the town. Probably, Mahendravarman
will have a similar description about white burial grounds
in his mattavilAsam.

" [...]    talaiyOTum, veLLe_npum
  pUtiyum vIzmayirum tAGkip putuccuTalai
  pAtam iraNTum paTaittu naTappa_napOl
  vIti veruva varuvArum  [....]

  pOtittu veLLerukkum pULaiyum veLLe_npum
  cOtittu vaittaane_n tOza_noru mAvirati."
                                - kArANai vi_lupparaiya_n maTal

White is eminently connected with death and mourning in India.

N. Ganesan

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