Saffron Saffron is sempiternal! Though the colour has been made an insinuation by some political forces, its perennial noteworthiness in Bharat cannot be effaced. Saffron stands for sacrifice and service. Since the manifestation of saffron is truly reflected in temples, they also truly embody the values of sewa. On the occasion of Guru Pournima, Organiser brings up many accounts of sewa which are being done by different temples for the furtherance of swaraj and samaj
Saffron or Bhagwa has been much politicised, misemployed and vilified by those who consider the acme of its representation as “Fascist”. The political upsurge of Bharatiya Janta Party (BJP) time and again has been termed as the ‘saffron surge’! However, saffron as a colour is congenital to the civilisational and cultural attributes of Bharat.
Colours can be misrepresented! Saffron has also met the same fate. The political facet of a colour undermines its holistic complexion and symbolism. For example, ‘Red is Communist!’, but in Bharat, red sindoor or vermillion is the symbol of Goddess Parvati or Sati. According to Hindu astrology, the house of Aries is on the forehead. The lord of Aries is Mars. Since the colour of Mars is red, it is believed to be auspicious. It is the sign of soubhagya or good fortune.
Saffron is the colour of connection, a sense of community, belonging and social aspects of being. Bharat and Bhagwa are integrated through history and culture
Similarly, the 20th century German Nazi Party made extensive use of graphic symbolism, especially the swastika, which was used as its principal symbol. This has led to the rendering of swastika as a symbol of “Fascism”. However, we know that swastika comes from the Sanskrit svastika, which means “good fortune” or “well-being." Therefore, a crucial exercise in the “semiosis” of a colour like saffron must be undertaken. The relationship between a sign, an object, and a meaning must be interlinked. The sign represents the object, or referent, in the mind of an interpreter. Therefore, it must be kept in mind that while for a few forces saffronisation may represent ‘Talibanisation’, for rest of Bharat, saffron is sacred.
Saffron as Fire and Sun
The colour that symbolises all aspects of ‘Being Hindu’, it is Saffron – the shade of Agni or flame. Fire burns away the darkness and brings light and it is symbolic of knowledge burning ignorance. Fire additionally demonstrates the soul of Yagna (Ritual of the sacred flame) which is critical to Self knowledge.The first verse of RigVed says, “Agnimile purohitam yajnasya devam ṛtvijam, hotaram ratna dhatamam”, meaning, “I adore Agni, the god of fire, the priest of the sacrifice, the provider of treasure of knowledge.” In Bharatiya cultural milieu, fire or Agni is considered pious and is connected to purity. Regardless of how good or bad a substance is fire burns everything down to ashes. Similarly, the belief is that whatever is consumed by Agni, it reverses to a state of purity. Thus, the colour saffron signifies fire in Sanatan Dharma, and thus, purity.
Bhagwa or the saffron colour also denotes renunciation or disinterestedness. The ideation of saffron as the colour in the top strip in Tiranga was to remind our people that they must be indifferent to material gains and dedicate themselves to their work. The symbolism of renunciation and sacrifice is best reflected in the Sun.
Apart from fire, the colour Saffron too has an important significance in Sanatan Dharma—the colour also reminds us of the Sun that dispels all darkness and makes our world better. Just like our own selves, the Sun burns bright throughout the day and sacrifices Him, thus providing warmth to people all around the world. Hence, the temple flag called the Bhagwa Dhwaj reminds us of our great heritage, sacrifice and warmth. The flag stands for purity and divine light.
Saffron is also the colour that signifies renunciation—monks wear this colour signifying that they have given up all the materialistic pleasures of life. In a nutshell, the Bhagwa Dhwaj stands for self sacrifice and renunciation—by giving up our own sins, we make way for a better world to live in. The flag also reminds us of our duty to the community and the society as a whole.
In symbolism, Saffron contains the shades of Sun, Mars and Jupiter that identifies with: Driving the Desire (Mars) for Truth or Salvation, freedom (Sun) with the help of information and one who dispels it (Jupiter).
It must be underlined that the basic colour of fire is yellow, saffron and red. The bottom of the fire is usually red, the middle is yellow and the top is saffron. Red is usually the colour of worship; yellow is usually worn by priests who are not monks while saffron is usually reserved for the highest—those who have renounced everything.
Colour of Bharat
The significance of saffron is not only limited to the Sanatan Dharma. It encompasses the whole Hindu culture and all the traditions which have been growing in the Hindu life stream.In Buddhism, Saffron is the colour of illumination, the highest state of perfection. When Buddha gave up his mortal body, he was covered with a special robe dyed in saffron. Ever since then, Buddhist monks have adopted saffron as the colour that can help them achieve their goal of moksha (deliverance). The saffron colour of robes to be worn by monks was defined by the Buddha himself and his followers in the 5th century BCE. The robe and its colour is a sign of renunciation of the outside world and commitment to the order.
The candidate monk, with his master, first appears before the monks of the monastery in his own clothes, with his new robe under his arm and asks to enter the order. He then takes his vows, puts on the robes, and with his begging bowl, goes out to the world. Thereafter, he spends his mornings in begging and his afternoons in contemplation and study, either in a forest, garden, or in the monastery.
In Sikhism, saffron appears in the form of Nishan Sahibs (the Sikh flag), the cholas (warrior attire) worn by Panj Pyaray and Sikh turbans. This is the colour of deep joy and bliss. It absorbs shocks, nasty experiences and trauma. It’s about letting go of what holds us back or what is not helpful. Saffron is the colour of connection, a sense of community, belonging and social aspects of being. In a nutshell, Bharat and Bhagwa are integrated through history, culture and everyday living.