the pink city -- 4/24/20

Today's selection -- from Patterns of India by Christine Chitnis. The beautiful city of Jaipur in India came to be known as the Pink City:

"The pink and red sandstone from the region's numerous quarries that was used to build Jaipur may have initially contributed to its reputation as the Pink City; then in 1876, awaiting a visit from Prince Albert of Wales and Queen Victoria, Maharaja Sawai Ram Singh II gave an order to paint the entire city pink, the color of hospitality. The maharaja's favorite wife fell in love with Jaipur Pink, and with her encouragement it became illegal for buildings to be painted any other color. The law remains in effect today, and though time has weathered many exteriors throughout the old city, it still holds its pink glow. The spirit of hospitality is alive and well in the city of Jaipur, whose residents warmly welcome throngs of tourists from across India and abroad.

"Visitors easily fall in love with it, which is why my husband and I chose it as the city in which to hold our Hindu wedding. My husband and I recited our wedding vows in an intimate ceremony in Jaipur. We were draped in pink rose garlands and stood atop a magnificent rangoli of marigold and rose petals. Often seen at weddings, celebrations, and festivals, rangoli is an art form in which patterns are created on the ground using flower petals, colored sand, or rice. Our carpet of blooms added a rich nourish to our otherwise simple ceremony. Touches of red colored the day as is tradition, to bring prosperity, fertility, purity, and passion to our marriage.

"In a traditional Hindu wedding ceremony, a red turban is worn by the groom, a red bindi is affixed to the bride's forehead to signify her status as a married woman, and sindoor, a vermilion red powder, is applied to the bride's hairline by her husband to signify her married status. From that day forward, a married woman traditionally applies sindoor until she is widowed. Some brides choose to wear a lehenga or a ghagra, a full-length, embellished flared skirt, along with a choli bodice and an odhani, a head covering also used as a veil; however, most brides wear a red sari often adorned with gold accents to highlight elaborate bridal jewelry. The sari, unstitched and gracefully draped, is perhaps India's most iconic article of clothing. Using a single piece of cloth to create elaborate garments -- the turban, lungi (length of cloth worn around the waist), dupatta (scarf worn to cover the head), and odhani, to name just a few -- is a distinct trait of Indian dress.

"India is a land blessed with an abundance of materials for natural dyes, ranging from pomegranate and walnut to indigo and Himalayan rhubarb. Indian artisans were some of the first in the world to develop methods for not only extracting dyes from their surroundings but also using mordants to adhere dyes to cloth and maintain their vibrancy. The Indian craftsman's knowledge of mordants was vital to India's dominance in the textile market and remained a closely guarded secret for a long time. The pink and red color family is especially valued in the art of natural dyeing, and the root of the maddar plant, one of the most ancient dyes on record, is used to produce a vibrant range: Turkey red, mulberry, and terra-cotta. Derived from the resinous secretion of insects, lac is another brilliant red natural dyeing agent with a long history in India. Crimsoned-colored fabrics were reserved for royalty and wealthy courtiers because of the level of skill required to achieve such vibrant hues."



Christine Chitnis


Patterns of India


Clarkson Potter


Copyright 2020 by Christine Chitnis


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