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Showcase 31 Jul 2012

The Colours of Navarasa – An introduction

In this series, we explore the traditions of colour association in India through the Navarasa, to unearth new emerging approaches to colour usage in contemporary Indian architecture and design.

The intuitive ability to respond to colours rises from colour associations that are both encoded in our cultural environment as well as built from individual experiences. Positive or negative responses to given colours form the basis of colour semiotics, the study of which helps map emotions and reactions to colour. 

This understanding of encoded semiotic meaning within colours can drive meaningful use of colour for design and architecture.

The knowledge of colour and its connotation is tempered in large measure by cultural context. Hence it is not simple and absolute, but finely-nuanced and sensitive to socio-cultural origins. For designers and architects working in varying contexts, sensitivity to cultural connotation of colour can greatly impact the reaction to their creations and create richer user experiences.

The Indian Tradition Of Emotive Colour

Navarasa is a common core element across traditional forms of art and performance in India. Loosely translated as ‘essence’, the idea of the Rasa can be better understood in conjunction with the concept of the Bhava. A Bhava is the expression of an emotion conveyed by an artist, while a Rasa is the emotional response elicited by the art. Each Rasa, which is the main emotion evoked, corresponds to a specific Bhava. To enhance the experience of the performance and its consumption, individual Rasas were matched to colours that could best represent the different emotional responses. 

The idea of the nine Rasas or Navarasa, finds first mention in the Natyasastra—a treatise on dramatic theory written by Bharata Muni between 200 BC and 200 AD. Over the years the development of indigenous art forms, unified by the Rasa theory, have shaped colour associations within India.

The Evolving Indian Context

In today’s context, as cultural boundaries merge to form new identities and subcultures, there is a natural evolution of the traditional notions of colour association. This series—The Colours of Navarasa, will present a historical foundation to kickstart a contemporary discourse around colour and its understanding in India. In each article, the qualities of the Rasas will be explored with a focus on colour and inspirational visual interpretations. 

Join us in this colourful journey as we explore the traditions of colour association in India through the Navarasa, to unearth new emerging approaches to colour usage in contemporary Indian architecture and design.

All images © 2006–2012 Fotomurthy 
IMAGE Fotomurthy » fotomurthy.deviantart.com/art/ Navarasas-43135211