The world would indeed be a dull place, if everything were to be in black and white. It is colours that add spice to our lives- we feel elated when we see a rainbow, a garden alight with bright blooms, a meadow of green grass topped with sparkling dew, a bright blue sky with the Sun shining as a yellow ball of fire, and so on. The rising and setting Sun is indeed beautiful to watch, for its sheer colourfulness. Can you imagine a world bereft of cheerful colours? It would be as dull and dreary as ditchwater, and make our lives mere drudgery.
It is interesting to find from our scriptures that the Creator of all colours is Himself extremely colourful. Let's see some of the hues that He is said to sport on various occasions. To start our colourful journey with the Vedas, the Purusha SUkta describes the Lord as being the colour of the Sun- “Aditya varNam tamasa: parastAt”. The reference to Sun-colour is significant. Just as the Sun is the antithesis of all darkness or evil, so too the Paramatma is verily the abode of all good qualities, and the antithesis of all that is inauspicious ('akhila hEya pratyanIka, kalyAnaikatAna').
Describing the TirumEni of the ParamaPurusha, the ChAndOgya Upanishad has the following to say- “Ya EshOntar AdityE hiraNmaya:Purusha:drisyatE HiraNmaya:smashru:hiranya kEsa:AprNakhAt sarva Eva suvarNa:”
The Lord is seen in golden splendour amidst the Solar System, adorned by golden hair with a golden moustache and facial hair to match. From head to toe, he is all glitter like the Yellow metal.
It is perhaps this wonderful tirumEni that Sri PeyAzhwar was able to witness at TirukkOilUr on that stormy night, which is evident from his exclamation, “Tiru kaNdEn, PonmEni kandEn, tigazhum arukkan aNi niramum kandEn”. Though Sri Nammazhwar too endows the Lord with the colour of red gold,('Sem ponnE tigazhum tiru moortthiyai', 'ANi sempon mEni endAi' etc.), he himself turns around later and takes objection to the Lord's colour being compared to that of a mere metal, and says that the purest gold cannot match the glitter of the Lord's tirumEni-”sutturaittha nan pon un tirumEni oLi ovvAdu”.
At the other end of the spectrum, Emperuman sports a jet-black colour too, as opposed to the sparkling golden hue indicated in the Vedas. Especially in Sri KrishnAvatAra, He is a blackie, as almost all the Azhwars testify-
“KaNNan enum karum deivam”, “Karia mEni misai veLia neeru siridE idum peria kola tadam kaNNan”, “karu mAmugil pOl vaNNan KaNNan”, “kAnagam ellAm tirindu un karia tirumEni vAda”, “kAr tiraL anaya mEni KaNNane unnai” etc. Thus the Lord is credited with the colour of clouds and the black sea- “kArAr kadal vaNNan pin pOna nenjamum”(Siriya Tirumadal) It is significant to note that the very name Krishna denotes one who is black. Perhaps He was christened with this name, looking to His colour at birth. He is indeed a Black Diamond, says Sri Nammazhwar- “KaiyAr chakkaratthu en Karu mANickkamE”.
Sri Andal goes a step further and, in a damaging expose, reveals that Sri Krishna's heart is as black as His body- “puram pOl uLLum kariyAnai”. That the Lord sports the colour of blue-black clouds is evident from Sri Vishnu Sahasranamam too, the prelude to which says, “MEgha shyAmam peetha kousEya vAsam”. On this black body, the attire of yellow silk sits well. Not only Sri Krishna, but Sri Rama too sported the colour of black clouds-”RAmam indIvara syAmam”.
Another colour that the Lord sports is green-a green that is restful to the eyes,says Sri Tondaradippodi Azhwar- “Pacchai mA malai pOl mEni”. Sri Nammazhwar concurs in TiruvAsiriam, “Pacchai mEni miga pagaippa”. Maragatam is a precious stone with a green hue, and several Azhwars have indicated that Emperuman is of this colour- 'VAmanan en maragata vaNNan' says Sri Nammazhwar. His colour is compared to that of other gems too-like “Mani”. Azwars are fond of calling the Lord “MaNivaNNA”-(“MarutthuvanAi nindra MAmaNivaNNA”, “VaikundA MaNivaNNanE en pollA tirukkuraLA”, etc.).
Sri Tirumangai Mannan is so perplexed by the galaxy of colours that the Lord sports from time to time, that he seeks elucidation from Emperuman Himself as to what His true colours are-
“Munnai vaNNam Palin vaNNam- muzhudum nilai nindra
Pinnai vaNnam koNdal vaNNam- vaNNam eNNum kAl
Ponnin vaNNam maNiyin vaNNam puraiyum tirumEni
Inna vaNnam endru kAttIr IndaLooreerE”.
Addressing Lord ParimaLa Ranga at Tiruvindalur, Azhwar says, “You were the colour of milk in Kritha Yuga, You acquired the hues of pure red gold in the TrEtha Yuga, and in DwApara Yuga You were the colour of a Blue Diamond: Shastras tell us that your real colour is that of the rain-bearing clouds. I am confused by all these changing colours- do tell me what your true colours are!”. Each part of the Lord’s divya mangaLa vigraham is a different colour- His hair is jet black (“Mai vaNNa narum kunji”), His eyes too black with reddish lines (“KariavAgi pudai parandu miLirndu sevvariOdi neeNda apperiavAya kaNgaL”), His lips red (“Kovvai sevvAi”, “SenganivAi”), the Discus He sports is the colour of the blazing Sun, the Conch Panchajanya a milky white, His palms and feet red like the lotus (“Minnum sudar malaikku kaN pAdam kai kamalam” “SenthAmarai adigaL”). Around His waist, He sports a beautiful cloth in Yellow or Red (“Peethaga Adai PirAnAr”, “PeethAmbara dhara sragvI”, “arai sivanda Adayin mEl chendradAm en sindayE”).
Taken together, with so many colours competing to adorn His divine form, the Lord is indeed a riot of colours, and looks like a heavenly garden in full bloom.
Not to be outdone, PirAtti is also colourful. It is noteworthy that Sri Piratti and the Lord are compatible with each other not only in qualities, divine beauty and powers, (“yat dharmai: iha dharmiNI viharatE nAnAkrithi: nAyikA”), but also in colour. While the Purusha Sukta describes Emperuman to be the colour of the Sun (“Aditya varnam tamasa: parastAt'”), the Sri Sukta says that His Consort too is of the same colour (“Aditya varNE”). While the Lord’s is “pon mEni”, Piratti is also credited with the colour of beaten gold (“HiraNya varNAm”). A connoisseur would however note that Piratti, with Her eminently feminine sense of colour, doesn’t take on blue or black hues that the Lord sports in His avatArAs. It is perhaps a reflection of our society’s predilections for fair-complexioned females even to this date. Tempting as it is to continue the saga of colours, adiyen would like to conclude this piece here, for fear of testing the readers’ patience.
Article by Sri Sadagopan Iyengar Swami, Coimbatore