Varanasi’s Unofficial Color

VARANASI, India — Though I hadn’t heard of Varanasi having an official color, there were enough displays of a brilliant deep orange to make me suspect there was a definite  preference.

The first, most notable splashes of a hot saffron hue appeared on the hulls of boats on the Ganga, during my early-morning ride. Next were a few shrines, including several to the monkey-god Hanuman, which I hadn’t seen in Kolkata or Gaya.

A Hanuman shrine and a rowboat on the Ganga, both orange, also featured swastikas prominently.

More common, as well as richer and redder, than the Indian yellow pigment I had come across in Bodhgaya, Varanasi’s examples of that orange were deeper and not relegated to floral arrangements or the robes of Buddhist monks. It was darker than most of the marigolds that were found in abundance.

A city renowned for its ancient vibe was also resplendent with color in surprising ways and places.

Varanasi, you never cease to amaze.

A sadhu, or holy man, descends stairs toward the ghats in Varanasi. At top, a painting of Gandhi on one of the main city streets. (Photos by Bruno J. Navarro)
Three birds on an orange boat on the Ganga at Varanasi.
A shrine to monkey-god Hanuman, topped with a swastika, in Varanasi.
Another wall shrine, though I’m not sure of the subject.
A faded orange boat with a painted swastika floats on the Ganga.

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