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Varna Sutra: Shyama, Svetha - Ebony & Ivory

Varna Sutra: Shyama, Svetha - Ebony & Ivory

In this edition of Varna Sutra, Kanakavalli contemplates the many meanings of the two most elemental of hues - black and white, or Shyama and Svetha - representing forces of good and the triumph over evil and of purity and mystery on the kanjivaram drape.

Ritual and custom, integral to the rhythm of daily life and culture in South India, determine the specific occasions and significant life events when each of these colours is to be adorned.

Rich in mythological and local references, the lexicon for this pair of perfectly contrasting hues encompasses masikkai (a medicinal herb), yanai (elephant grey), sambal (ash grey), mutthu (lustrous, pearly white) and vennai (or the rich, creamy hue of butter), among others striking and significant hues. 

Shop the curation here, and delve further into the stories of these colours and their links to the craft in the accompanying article on our journal. 

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