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Colour Vocabulary of the Indian Weaver

In a time, much before pantone shades and the imposition of western nomenclature, were a wave of weavers inspired by the beauty of the mundane. The colour names, once part of the vocabulary of the Indian weaver in Banaras, speaks volumes of the artistic sensibilities of our traditionally skilled artisans. The colloquial names essentially originate and resonate with elements of nature and food. The names used incorporate even the subtlest variations in hues – from Kapursafed (camphor white), makkai (creamy corn) to subzkishmish (young raisins).

At Tilfi, many of our colour palettes continue to be inspired by these hues. We take you through some of these timeless shades and their names from the bygone days.

Many of the terms used seem to be inspired by the everyday and stem from a place of familiarity. A shade of ivory with a tint of yellow is called motiatranslating to a pearl, badami meaning almond resonates with a subtle combination of beige and brown and pyaziis used for a tone resembling the outer layer of an onion.

Only a handful of names translate to the literal meaning - narangi for orange, lal for red and gulabi for pink. Many others continue to be inspired, for instance, a purple hue is called baigani translating to a brinjal, nimbuimeaning lemon depicts a vibrant lemon-yellow and shades of bluecontinue to be named after the sky.  

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