Feb 272013

What is the significance of Red color in India ?


Red is a very auspicious color in Indian culture. From the red saree that the bride wears on her wedding day to the red bangles, red sindoor that married Hindu women put in the parting of hair red is everywhere. A wedding invitation card is not considered complete unless it’s colored red on the corners.  In some parts of India housewives will make rangoli of white color in front of their doors but on festivals like Sakranthi they will make a special rangoli with Red as the central color. Grand-moms call their favorite grandson “Mera Lal” meaning my son but if you translate literally it means my red, a lot of people will have Lal as their middle name again meaning Red. So you see a there is a lot of symbolism in color red for Hindus.

Sisters tie a red thread on the right wrist of brothers during the festival of Raksha Bandhan, this simple red thread is the most beautiful bond man has ever created. Though now more colorful versions are available for Rakhis but the original was a simple red thread, also used in every single Hindu religious ceremony.

A red tilak ( a small tapering red mark) on the forehead of a man is for wishing him good luck in a war or day-to-day life in modern context, a red dot on the forehead of women is her symbol of being married, along with red sindoor in the partition of her hair just above forehead. On any auspicious occasion like marriage or any puja ( prayer), red rose petals and rice grains with a sprinkling of vermilion are showered to signify purity and continuity of health and wealth.

But these are more of folklore and the real understanding of the importance of  Red Color in India started at the time when the earliest scriptures were written by Vedic Sages. Rig Veda talks about that the Chariot of Sun is pulled by  7 horses, and we all know that the Sunlight is a composite of 7 colors of Rainbow. Do you remember learning names of colors of Rainbow using  formula


  • Violet
  • Indigo
  • Blue
  • Green
  • Yellow
  • Red

making red the foundation of all colors, and as per Chandrasekhar limit, a star at the end of its life evolves into a Red Giant before becoming a white dwarf.

The word for Red and Blood is same in Sanskrit  Rakta, as blood is the elixir of life in our bodies hence divine. Here Rakta or Blood red does not signify violence but it signifies the divine and life-giving properties of blood or color red. No wonder that those who are healthy irrespective of their race or color have a reddish glow on their face, due to the abundance of Iron in their blood.

There are other references to Color red in our early scriptures:

Prana Pratistha Dhyanam: Raktambhodhistha Potollasadaruna
प्राणप्रतिष्ठा ध्यानम् – रक्तांभोधिस्थ पोतोल्लसदरुण
( Here the author is offering Salutations to the Devi ( Mother Goddess ) of Prana Shakti Who abides on a red ocean wearing red clothes which shine like the red color of the morning sun) Basically red is considered the color of life and originating directly from the Sun.   ( source )

Red is also considered as the eternal color as per this shloka below: 

उदये सविता रक्तः रक्तश्चास्तमये तथा
सम्पत्तौ च विपत्तौ च महतामेकरूपता
udaye savitaa raktaH raktashchaastamaye tathaa
sampattau cha vipattau cha mahataamekarUpataa

Meaning of the subhAShita:
Sun ( Savitaa) is red as he rises, he is red even as he sets. Similarly, great minds will be composed in happiness as well as in sadness…  ( Source )


Gods like Ganesha who is the first among gods to be invoked before any new beginning and Hanuman who is the original Superman in any culture are smeared red with Vermilion to show the divine power they have and bless the devotees.

Here is a shloka celebrating the red complexion of Ganesha and also describing his Elephant head, sharp teeth, large belly somebody who is perfect and respected by all gods.

गजवदनमचिन्त्यं तीक्ष्णदंष्ट्रं त्रिनेत्रं
बृहदुदरमशेषं भूतिराजं पुराणम् ।
अमरवर-सुपूज्यं रक्तवर्णं सुरेशं
पशुपतिसुतमीशं विघ्नराजं नमामि ॥ 13 ॥
Elephant-faced, beyond thought, sharp teethed, three eyed,
large bellied, the perfect one, the king of the riches, the ancient
one, the one to be respected by all the gods, with a red complexion, the
lord of the gods, son of Shiva (the lord of life), ruler over obstacles;
I bow to you.  ( source )


Red is the color of divine, depicting divine energy that flows from the Sun to each one of us on planet earth.

Here in this picture taken during the Bonalu festival, this woman is carrying a pot on her head with food made for gods to be offered during the festival. I was a little hesitant to take her picture as it is not considered culturally correct in India to click pictures of women without permission. But as they say, lady luck was smiling at me; she saw me adjusting my camera with a question mark on my face and smiled spontaneously slightly nodding her head as if assenting to be photographed. Thanks a lot, lady, may god bless you. That was my signal to click.  I also removed colors from other people and background from the picture as I was trying to learn selective coloring.

Indian woman wearing red sari with a pot on her head

Red is an auspicious color in India

So I hope you liked reading about the significance of red color in Hindu religion and culture. If I have missed anything please feel free to add to the comments section.

So you see the significance and psychology of red color are very different in India, especially among Hindus compared to western culture. Oh yes, you still have to stop at a Red light on Indian roads, well at least the law says so. How many of you my desi brothers/sisters  stop at Red Light? You need to visit India if you are not an Indian to find out the same.

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  18 Responses to “Significance of Red color in India”

Comments (18)
  1. I was looking for the painting pattern on the bottom of door frame ( with Yellow background, while strips and red dots).

  2. Beautiful! I love your post processing for the Red Challenge 😉

  3. Never thought Red is so significant in our life..
    Those red hearts hanging everywhere on Valentines heart.
    Then the red ribbon we use to pack the gifts to some one dear.
    Red definitely has do something with love.. 🙂

  4. Just like the significance of red for Hindus, Red is significant in the photo too. Good Work !

  5. Great choice of selective color. Your model has a lovely smile, making the portrait all the more approachable.

  6. The Chinese also see the red as an auspicious colour especially during new year and weddings. Lots of red in their temple too,.

  7. Lovely post! Wonderful work in selective colouring too! Photoshop?

  8. Good touch up of the photo and a very nice summary of the significance of the colour “red” in India.

    • Thanks Neeraj… just learning to play around with Lightroom…thanks

      • Red symbolizes love and victory. During ancient times young men fight for bride, in other terms kings and influential people give their daughters to brave man (or) to those who win fight. The blood is applied on the forehead of the girl referring to the risk taken for wife with life. I have earned you as my wife risking my life with blood shed in love for you. Life is in the Blood. Symbol of love, blood is simplified with Kungumam, Kumkum, Kumkuma (Saffron in English). In religious terms the exact meaning is not known.

        In Christianity the Red is the symbol of Protection, Forgiveness and Love. Red is the color of blood.

        Protection:- Going back to nearly 4000 years. Israelites including Jews (Promised descendants of Abraham (from Mesopotamia the first civilisation ever known), Considered as God chosen people were slaves in Egypt. God raised a Prophet called Moses to deliver them from Egyptians. God allowed 10 different forces against Egyptians to show that God is on the side of Israelites because they did not allow them to go from Egypt. The tenth force is the death of the first born of Egyptians. In this case an angel who kills the first born will come on the particular evening and enter the house where there is no blood applied on the doorposts and lintels. The instruction for the Israelites is that they have to sacrifice an year old ram and apply the blood on the door post, so that the angel who strike the first born will not enter the house (The first Passover). (Exodus 12:7 in Bible).

        Forgiveness:- Then after the people of Israel were allowed to leave Egypt and on the way to their promised land in the mount zion God gave them commandments to follow. If any one does any sin (sin means disobeyig God’s Commandments) He has to sacrifice sheep and the blood is springled or applied. Now the greater sacrifice is made for our sins by Lord Jesus Christ himself. The wages of sin is death and the blood of Jesus Christ washes all the sins.

        Love of God:- God made man and was in perfect relation with each other. Sin separated man from God and earned death. So out of love for mankind God became Man and experienced all the sufferings and feelings man was going through and made a way to forgive the sins of mankind by giving himself as Sacrifice for the sins. He is ready to do anything to save man that much He loves Man. So he experienced pain shame and rejection so that we may reunite with God. With sin no one can reach God. If one will fail to accept His Love where can man go? How he can be saved?

        People of India moved from central Asia where these culture is followed may be the background because many things followed by Indians are found in Bible Old Testament with altered meaning

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