The Colour Indigo
“Fantasy is silver and scarlet, indigo and azure, obsidian veined with gold and lapis lazuli. Reality is plywood and plastic, done up in mud brown and olive drab. Fantasy tastes of habaneros and honey, cinnamon and cloves, rare red meat and wines as sweet as summer. Reality is beans and tofu, and ashes at the end.”
~ George R.R. Martin ~
Indigo is a rich colour between deep blue and violet on the visible spectrum, and holds the attributes of both these colours. Dark denim is indigo as is Indigo dye. It’s a cool, deep color and also a natural one.
Indigo is the Colour of intuition and perception and is helpful in opening the third eye. It promotes deep concentration during times of introspection and meditation, helping you achieve deeper levels of consciousness. It is a Colour which relates to the “New Age” – the ability to use the Higher Mind to see beyond the normal senses with great powers of perception. It relies on intuition rather than gut feeling.
The name Indigo has its origins in the Greek word for the dye, indikón, which means Indian. Romans changed that to indicum. After that term passed through Italian dialect and then into English as the word “indigo”. The colour is derived from a plant called Indigofera, indigenous to India, Africa and Asia. The blue dye is obtained through a complicated process of fermentation and cultivation is believed to go back thousands of years – the ancient Egyptians wrapped mummies in Indigo-dyed cloths, in Central Asia it was one of the main colours for carpets.
Romans used indigo painting and for medicinal and and as cosmetics. There are tablets from 7th century BC Mesopotamia that tell about coloring of the wool. In the Middle Ages indigo becomes rare because heavy duties imposed by Persian, Levantine, and Greek merchants. Instead of it people used woad, a dye made from the plant “Isatis tinctoria” that was chemically identical to the indigo.
When, in the second half of the 15th century, Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama discovered a sea way to India that opened trade route to India, the Spice Islands, China, and Japan. The Europeans included some of India’s Indigo together with spices and silks.
The exotic Indian Indigo soon became one of the best blues available, it was a much superior and stronger colour to the blue (‘indigo”) the Europeans were producing from woad.
It was around this time Isaac Newton revealed the colours of the spectrum/rainbow – red, orange. yellow, green, blue, indigo and violet. With so much attention on Indigo at the time, one can’t help wondering if it influenced Isaac Newtons decision to include indigo, when he could, just as easily, have included turquoise to bridge green and blue.
The Rise and Fall of Indigo
Over time Indigo prevailed due to its superior properties and it was finally legalized in the mid 1700’s. Not long after, woad was out and Indigo was in. The ‘devils colour’ became the “king of dyes.”
As Indigofera grew in tropical climates, the French started the West Indies indigo industry on the islands of (now) Haiti, Martinique and Guadeloupe and soon the production of Caribbean indigo overtook Indian indigo. After much trial it was eventually also farmed in America.
In the 1900’s England turned to India again for Indigo and the high demand led to terrible injustices involved with the farming of it. Unscrupulous British planters pushed farmers into shocking contracts where farmers were forced to plant indigo instead of much needed food.
One of Mahatma Gandhi’s first acts of peaceful protest was when he supported indigo peasants who felt mistreated in northern Bihar, India in 1917. Indigo gained a bad reputation due to the human injustices and soon fell out of favour. Today few Indigo plants remain and plantations have been replaced with rice.
Krishna the Indigo Hindu God
In Hindu, Indigo Blue is a lucky colour – the colour of Krishna, one of the most popular of all Hindu Gods. Krishna is the God of compassion and love and linked to all aspects of Indian folklore – literature, painting, dance and music.
It is sad that the history of blue over the last few hundred years hasn’t been a lucky or happy one for those that have been involved with it.
The first synthetic indigo dye was made by German chemist Adolf von Baeyer in 1878 but synthesis of indigo those first tries was impractical. Experimenting continued and first commercially practical synthetic indigo was made in 1897.
How Natural Indigo is Made
With the introduction of synthetic indigo dyes in the late 1800’s the craft and art of producing natural indigo could have completely disappeared in India. Fortunately there is a small group of artisans that are not ready to give up on this important part of their culture and are returning to the craft of cultivating Indigo. This is a wonderful video from Asian paints on the incredible story of Indigo.
Indigo, is a colour of many faces. From the time it was discovered, it has led to many wars in its name. It has led to exploitation and rebellion in the same breath. The colour that once was so rare that only royal families were allowed to wear it, is now in danger of being overridden by chemicals. The age-old traditions of making the colour naturally is fading away thick and fast and with its process, even all of its poetry and culture is being lost. And in a country like India, where Indigo was at the centre of its culture, the colour in its natural form has been slowly disappearing. Yet, like in most tragedies, there has always been a sense of hope. And in this story, it has come from the unlikeliest of sources. Little pockets across the country have rejuvenated this practice, and have gone on a journey to discover the colour in its purest form. We trace the life of Indigo, as we try to unveil the mysteries of its making, and live through the journeys of its makers.
Psychological Properties of Indigo
Indigo is the Symbol of the Mystical Borderland where Wisdom and Spirituality are attuned through Meditation. Indigo is the Colour of higher perception, practical idealism and instinctive knowledge. It has the ability to see “within.”
Indigo is Intuitive – Indigo can boost up the perception a person has of things and encourage unconscious processes, such as intuition. This means that indigo can help develop a deeper awareness of what is going on. It also encourages other states of consciousness, so it’s a good Colour to use for meditation.
Indigo is Creative – Indigo stimulates the creative part of the brain. It can help with spatial thinking. Among the arts, indigo is mostly linked to theatre, also having a dramatic flair. People who overuse indigo may also be quite dramatic.
Indigo is Structure – Structure creates identity and meaning for indigo. In fact an indigo person cannot function without structure – it throws them right off balance. Organisation is very important to them and they can be quite inflexible when it comes to order in their lives.
Indigo is Spiritual – Indigo also is associated with rituals and traditions, which is why it is so commonly used in the New Age context. Indigo will help integrate the material and spiritual natures of man. It will enable him to focus his consciousness on the many unseen worlds beyond.
Indigo is Devoted – Indigo is a Colour related to devotion and helping others. Service to humanity is one of the strengths of the Colour indigo – It is a defender of people’s rights to the end. Powerful and dignified, indigo conveys integrity and deep sincerity.
Indigo is Wisdom – The Colour meaning of indigo reflects wisdom and justice along with fairness and impartiality. The Colour has a deep a quality that transmits wisdom and authority.
Indigo is Addictive – Indigo can support an addictive personality into maintaining their addictions – don’t use it if you are trying to overcome an addiction – it is associated with the religious fanatic – the colour of the workaholic who thinks they are indispensable – can also be related to those who are addicted to getting qualifications.
Positive and Negative Traits
Positive keywords include integrity and sincerity, structure and regulations, highly responsible, idealism, obedience, highly intuitive, practical visionary, faithful, devotion to the truth and selflessness.
Negative keywords include being fanatical, judgmental, impractical, intolerant and inconsiderate, depressed, fearful, self-righteous, a conformist, addictive, bigoted and avoiding conflict.
“Coloured lights shone right across the northern sky, leaping and flaring, spreading in rainbow hues from horizon to zenith: blood red to rose pink, saffron yellow to delicate primrose, pale green, aquamarine to darkest indigo. Great veils of colour swathed the heavens, rising and falling as light seen through cascading curtains of water. Streamers shot out in great shifting beams as if God had put his thumb across the sun.” ~ Celia Rees ~