Sunday, August 1, 2010

how colorful is your life? - colors in sanskrit

The word for color in Sanskrit is 'varNa' (वर्ण) and it actually signifies quality, one of them being color. It is also used for the letter of the alphabet (quality of sound), the alphabet being called varNa-mAlA (वर्ण-माला, letter-garland). Gold is called su-varNa (सुवर्ण, सु=good, beautiful; वर्ण=color, quality ). The four personality types are called वर्ण as well - ब्राह्मण, क्षत्रिय, वैश्य, शूद्र (brAhmaNa, kShatrIya, vaishya, shUdra) which are the thinkers, administrators, business and working class of a society by professions, but they are based originally on personality types, qualities of a person.
 
There is very nice example of pun and the many meanings of सुवर्ण in Hindi:




सुबिरन को ढूँढत-फिरत कवि,व्यभिचारी, चोर
  subirana ko DhoonDhata-phirata kavi, vyabhichArI, chora


subirana (hindi) = suvarNa (sanskrit)
kavi = poet
vyabhichArI = licentious person (one whose conduct is wanton)
chora (hindi) = chaura (sanskrit) = thief

So the saying goes, all of them are looking for सुवर्ण - the poet (looking for good letters/words/sounds), the wanton man (for the fairer complexion, women) and the thief (for gold).

Here are names of some of the colors as in Sanskrit. These are in masculine form. Most feminine are made by changing the last -aH to -aa, and neutral by changing it to -am like, श्वेत, श्वेता, श्वेतम् (shvetaH, shvetA, shvetam) or रक्तः, रक्ता, रक्तम् (raktaH, raktA, raktam).


श्वेतः shvetaH white
धवलः dhavalaH white
अर्जुनः arjunaH white
कृष्णः kRiShNa black
श्यामः shyAmaH black
रक्तः raktaH red
पीतः pItaH yellow
हरितः haritaH green
नीलः nIlaH/neelaH indigo
पाटलः pATalaH pink
शोणः shoNaH purple
कपिलः kapilaH brown
अरुणः aruNaH reddish brown
कषायः kaShAyaH yellowish red
कापोत kApotaH dull white grey

And the rainbow is called 'इन्द्र-धनुष' (indra-dhanuSha) or the bow of 'indra' - the king of the gods.

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9 comments:

  1. अरुणः is not exactly reddish-brown. It is Orange Colour - The colour of setting sun.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi Anonymous,
      Please check Apte's dictionary
      http://dsal.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/philologic/getobject.pl?c.0:1:4458.apte

      Delete
  2. शङ्करःFebruary 9, 2013 at 8:50 PM

    In most of the dictionaries by English writers, अरुणः is described as red or reddish brown. It is actually orange colour - the colour of setting sun. Due to this mistranslation, most of the people, who search for the translation of Orange colour in Sanskrit use the term नारङ्गः for orange colour. But this is not true. The term नारङ्गः was never used as the name of a colour in Sanskrit. The term नारङ्गः (Orange fruit) is derived from नाग-रङ्ग implying that Orange is a fruit which has the colour of lead (red lead or minium नागसंभवम्- an oxide of lead). नागम् in neuter gender word meaning lead. Hence, it will be correct to use अरुणः as the translation for Orange colour in Sanskrit. रक्तारुणपीतहरितनीलादिवर्णानां शोभितम् इन्द्रचापम्...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shankar,
      Vaman Shivaram Apte was not an English writer :)
      Excerpt from shabdakalpadrum:
      अरुः = रक्तखदिरः
      अरुणम् = कुंकुम
      अरुणः = सूर्यसारथि ... कृष्णमिश्रितरक्तवर्णविशेषः (kRiShNa-mishrita-rakta-varNa-viSheshaH) = black-mixed red = brown ??

      Delete
    2. I was not referring to Apte, but wrote in general. Anyhow, Apte himself describes अरुणः as tawny (a shade of orange-brown or burnt orange). There is a word in Sanskrit बभ्रुः (बभ्रु reddish-yellow) which means brown. But brown is commonly translated as पिङ्गलः (yellowish brown) or कपिलः (dark brown). Etymologically saying the English word 'brown' is derived from Sanskrit 'Babhru'.

      The term अरुणः some times refers to reddish-orange, sometimes refers to burnt-orange or tawny. But in general, we can say अरुणः refers to Orange colour.

      In his article itself, Apte also gives some descriptions for अरुणः. 1. प्रत्याख्यातविशेषकं कुरबकं श्यामावदातारुणम् (of the colour of the morning as opposed to the darkness of night) 2. अरुणः Red colour, the colour of the dawn or morning twilight. 3. The dawn personified as the charioteer of the Sun. 4. Sun - अरुण- कररुचायते$न्तरीक्षे 5. Gold - अम्भो अरुणं रजतम् Gold looks like Orange-red coloured silver. I think, all these implies अरुणः is Orange, (precisely reddish-orange, or orange in general).

      If it is as you illustrated कृष्णमिश्रितरक्तवर्णविशेषः, it will be maroon. Confusion :D

      Delete
  3. लोहितः - dark red / reddish brown / maroon

    ReplyDelete
  4. कृष्णरक्तः - dark-red colour.
    बभ्रुः - deep brown colour.
    पाण्डुः - The yellowish-white colour.

    ReplyDelete
  5. ARUNODAY. A PHASE BEFORE SUNRISE, DAWN- IS VIOLET IN COLOR.

    ReplyDelete
  6. ARUNODAY MEANS DAWN, 40-30 MINUTES BEFORE SUNRISE. THE COLOR THEN IS VIOLET TO INDIGO. Arun means violet color.

    ReplyDelete

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