Two Perspectives on Colour

Swami Niranjanananda Saraswati

Holi is known as the festival of colours. In towns, cities and villages, on the streets, in homes, everywhere, the people, come out to colour each other in different colours. Holi also indicates the day of social integration as on this day there is nobody high or low, nobody belonging to different denominations or religions, nobody belonging to different customs and traditions. Everyone is united in the colourful spirit of Holi.

According to different traditions, you will not give colour, but you will give flowers to Gods. Today in different temples, you will see the flower petals being showered on the deity. That is the way devotees play Holi – through flowers.

The spiritually oriented people, the sadhus, the pious people, the yogis, the recluses, the renunciates give a different interpretation to the festival of colour. I have two examples in front of me. One example is of Sri Krishna and the other example is of Paramahamsaji.


There is an incident in Krishna’s life which is quite interesting. One day, Krishna was walking around the town and came across a person who was dyeing clothes. He had different buckets filled with colours, and people used to go to this dyer and say to him, that they wanted the dhoti dyed blue, red or yellow, or the shirt dyed yellow or pink. According to the customer’s choice, the man used to dip the cloth in the bucket, take it out and give it to the person. Krishna watched him for some time and being a child was interested. So he went up to the dyer and said, “Can I also have a bucket? I also want to dye the clothes.” The dyer said, “All right,” and gave him a bucket which was filled with water, but without any colour. He told Krishna, “This is also a colour and you can dye different clothes in this colour as well.”

So Krishna takes the bucket and goes to another cross road of the town and stands in the middle of the cross road and announces, “Anybody who wants to dye their clothes can come here and I will do it for free, in any colour of your choice.” So some people first went out of curiosity and they said we want to dye our clothes in this colour, this colour, this colour and Krishna used to take the clothes from them – dip the material in the bucket and the colour that came was what the people wanted.

There was one bystander who was watching this game. He noticed that Krishna had only one bucket, but from that bucket blue was coming out, red was coming out, green was coming out, yellow was coming out, purple was coming out, black was coming out. That man was curious and awed at the same time.

Krishna continued this the whole day and come evening, people dispersed to go to their homes and Krishna was standing alone with the bucket, contemplating also returning home, when this bystander came with a piece of cloth and said, “I also want to dye my cloth.” Krishna looked at him and said, “Which colour?” He said, “The colour in the bucket.” What was the colour in the bucket? It was just plain water.

God gives colour according to the choice of the people and those colours come out of a colourless pot. We can put on many colours but the spirit is colourless. The spirit has no colour, so one has to dip in the transparency of the spirit. That is one meaning of Holi, from Krishna’s perspective.


The next story is Paramahamsaji's perspective. And there is a poem which he has written - it is published in Steps to Yoga, in the letters to Satyabrat, Vishwaprem and Dharmashakti. To Swami Dharmashakti he is writing that in the world people are covering themselves with colours, but in the life of a sannyasin there is only one colour, the geru colour, which once it comes on, does not leave. You can wear any other colour in life and change every day, but once you wear geru, it doesn't leave the body.

Paramahamsaji says initiation is covering the body. People want the geru covering, yet the mind also has to be coloured by geru and this people can’t do. Geru symbolizes vitality, transparency, dynamism, luminosity, wisdom, activity, creativity. However, we all hang onto our old preconceived notions, impressions and ideas and we don't want to change, so how can we colour our mind in geru? How can we colour our spirit in geru?

This is the contemplation, the sadhana for the pious, the spiritually oriented people, the recluses, the savants, sages and sadhus to reflect on: What stops me in this conditioned nature? Why can I not go beyond that conditioning, beyond the limit that I have set for myself?

Nelson Mandela says that everyone is afraid of their own luminosity. Nobody wants to connect with positivity and wisdom for that is their luminosity. People want to hang on to the opinions and beliefs which have shaped their nature, their personality, and they are not willing to change that.

Holi becomes the time for reflection according to Paramahamsaji: can we not colour ourselves geru internally?

Holi, 28 March 2021, Ganga Darshan, Munger