What are the five colours of India and what do they mean?

From religion and politics to festivals and celebrations, colours play an important role in every aspect of life throughout India. Here, they are not just pretty, they have meaning.

Blue is associated with infinity – anything that is beyond our perception that has no end – with both the sea and the sky appearing this vibrant colour. It is thought that this is why so many Indian gods are portrayed as blue-skinned. One of the most beloved of the Hindu gods is Krishna, the deity of love and compassion. Rama, the god of truth and virtue, is also shown as a blue figure. He is considered the perfect embodiment of humankind, mentally, spiritually and physically, and is celebrated during the festival of light, or Diwali.


Green epitomises nature and new beginnings, combining the blue of the sky and the yellow of the sun. India’s landscapes are varied but this colour is painted right across, north to south. From Darjeeling’s tea plantations to Kerala’s spice gardens and forest-clad shores, a verdant blanket covers the land. Rice is India’s most important crop, and paddies can be seen all over, while the lush forests of Ranthambore are home to thrilling wildlife including the tiger.


Saffron represents purity and religious abstinence, and is the colour of the robes worn by holy men in India. It also symbolises wisdom and lightness, qualities possessed by Buddhist monks, and can be seen in the stripes of the elusive tiger, if you’re lucky on safari. The golden-hued spice turmeric, as well as being an important ingredient in cooking, is used in many rites and rituals. In Ayurveda medicine, turmeric is the ‘spice of life’, and its health benefits are now widely recognised all over the world.


In the Hindu religion, and around 80% of Indians are Hindi, red is the most significant colour. Indicating both sensuality and purity, it is used during important occasions including the birth of a child, festivals and marriages. On her special day, a bride will wear red and sprinkle red powder on the parting of her hair. The colour also symbolises fertility – it is the colour of the clay which nurtures an abundant harvest, and of the chilli, one of India’s most feisty spices.


Said to denote hospitality, pink was the colour Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh decreed all buildings should be painted to welcome Queen Victoria and Prince Albert in 1876. The Maharaja’s favourite wife loved the colour so much that she persuaded him to pass a law making it illegal for buildings to be painted any other colour. That’s why to this day, the shade, which is actually a pinkish terracotta, remains intact and Jaipur is more commonly known as the ‘Pink City’.