A Colorful Faith

“Can your wedding gown be altered?”

“Like how? Would you like the trail shorter or the neck less wider?”

“No, can you make it red or green instead?”

I had known them to be conservative, and so I had cautioned my wedding dress designer against displays of cleavage, tight curves and transparency. Every lace was lined with satin, except for the veil. But this was ridiculous! The wedding dress was traditionally a show of white. Having it changed to red or green was not only offensive to the day, but to the dress as well.

“White is a widow’s color to us, you must understand”, my sister-in-law replied, in a desperate bid to save her family’s grace for my much awaited day. “And my in-laws would certainly ask uncomfortable questions”.

I cared less about her in-laws. Among my own family members, I had made it clear that if anyone should object to anything in our wedding, should not be invited. I wish I could now repeat these affirmations out loud, but I found myself speaking rather curt and politely,

“The dress is already made,” I ascertained, looking at her as she shifted her countenance to her mother. “It’s only a few months to the wedding, and we do our preparations way in advance.” I explained.

My priest however was more understanding. “Colors are the foundation for Hinduism. Everything from the sacred symbols to the traditions are marked with color. You ought to embrace and enjoy it”.

A few day into the marriage, I was introduced to the family ‘norms’. As every day of the week was dedicated to a God, so was a color – red for Tuesdays, orange for Sundays, white for Mondays and yellow for Thursdays, etc. Every feast also had a color code such as red for Karwa Chauth, green for the holy month of Shravan, etc. This did not bother me, in fact it’s the one thing that makes me look forward to staying with them each day. I have dresses, sarees and kurtis arranged in my wardrobe based on the days of the week, and even to go out for religious meetings. It has made me so obsessed, that I plan the entire year’s wardrobe for festivals and occasions on a single day.

A story was narrated by my Jesuit priest and mentor. It tells of a Buddhist monk, who meditated for years in the heart of a cave. After some time however, he began to be annoyed by the rats who frequented the cave, and disturbed his meditation. To solve the problem he kept a cat, who consequently took care of the rodents. It so happened that after his death, his disciples – who were unaware of the purpose of the cat, put forth the condition, that in order to follow the monk’s teachings, one must keep a cat.

In truth, none of these colors are important. In a religious context, none of these ‘rules’ are even mentioned in the holy Scriptures. But people follow them for reasons of their own. If it is followed out of devotion to God, there is nothing wrong in doing so. Even in the Catholic faith I have observed devotees offer a bouquet of white lilies to St. Anthony, which are said to be his favorite, and similarly blue roses for Our Lady. No book says to do so. But these rules become a problem when they are imposed upon a unknowing person. It makes faith a burden, and devotion a matter of great stress.

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