India In Bloom

By Fleur Chattillon

There are busts of vibrant shades of colour everywhere, Beautiful and bright fabrics flowing in the wind and the smell of rich spices in the air. Walking through the streets of any vibrant city in India, you will most likely see buildings; each painted differently and people wearing clothing with the most unique embroidery, patterns, and in every colour. As well as the markets, or bazaars, filled with multicoloured textiles, shoes, jewellery, and even spices in every vivid hue. Interestingly, in this multi-layered culture, colours hold meaning and symbolism that are expressed throughout every aspect of Indian life. Find out more in India In Bloom.

Film, music, architecture, festivals, fashion and food are full of luscious life and vibrant colour. A beloved aspect of Indian culture that has used colours and vibrancy in its creation is the film industry known as Bollywood. It was created in 1932 by Dadasaheb Phalke and has become the largest global film industry.

Bollywood film in a cinema, Image by Tumisu

Around 1000 films are released every year in several languages including Hindi, Bengali, Tamil, and Telugu. Although Bollywood was an industry, the Bombay Film Business, over time it evolved and turned into its genre. Often, songs, dance, and beautiful, lavish costumes are associated with Bollywood movies. And although Bollywood has grown and changed over time, there is still a glamorous aspect to them that bring colour and life to their storytelling.

Look at the movie Mughal-E-Azam, released on August 5, 1960, that broke box office records in India, quickly becoming the highest-grossing Indian film for the next 15 years as well as winning several film awards. The movie is filled with dazzling costumes made of bright colours and decorative jewels and embellishments. As well as alluring scenes with singing and large dance productions.

Not only do we see the vibrant culture of India in film, but a big cultural medium that is spread all over the world is also music. One of the most famous musicians and composers is Ravi Shankar. He became the world’s best-known export of North Indian classical music in the second half of the 20th century and influenced many musicians in India and throughout the world. He mostly played the sitar, an Indian stringed instrument. He was a major influence on George Harrison, who was a member of The Beatles an English rock and pop group from the UK.

He also set a large example for his family. His daughter, Anoushka Shankar, also became a famous composer and eventually his nephew, Ananda Shankar became a famous singer and composer well.

His most famous track sums up the life colour and vibrancy of the city of Calcutta. The music filled with the noise, hustle and bustle of the alleways teaming with life.

Alive in The Hindu festival of Holi, find colour at its most life-affirming. It celebrates, among a few; the beginning of spring, love, new life, the eternal love between Radha and Krishna; the god of protection, compassion, and love, and the triumph of good over evil.

The Holi Festival is called the Festival of Colours because it is celebrated not only with singing and dancing but with the throwing of coloured powder. It symbolizes the onset of spring, so people will paint the town with colours in honour of it.

For events like these colours hold more significance because there is intention behind the use of them. Each colour has a very specific meaning.

Saffron, which is a kind of gold-like, being the most sacred colour, means sanctity and is considered lucky. Red is for love and fertility. Green is new beginnings, harvests, and happiness. Yellow is knowledge and learning and blue is immortality, bravery, and determination.

Holi powder image by Sistak

Another aspect of the wide culture is the architecture. The two major styles of temple architecture in the country are known as Nagara in the north and Dravidian in the south. The third style, Vesara Style, is a fusion of Nagara and Dravidian styles. Again the use of colour in these temples and buildings is very intentional and all hold a deeper meaning, just like the Holi Festival.

Besides the temple-style architecture, there are a lot of colourful buildings in the South of India. It is not widely known that this architecture was a key influence on the Memphis group, a group of designers focused on a postmodern design style. In the 1960s, on his frequent travels to India, Italian designer and Memphis Group founder Ettorre Sottsass discovered colourful and geometric homes of Tiruvannamalai in Tamil Nadu and they became a huge source of inspiration for him.

Image by Yi Chen

Ashish is a fashion designer originally from India that brought his vibrant and colourful culture and style to Londen. His designs are made in loads of glimmering sequins, checkered patterns, a variety of shining textiles and print-on-print.

Ashish Autumn Winter collection 2023

Ashish was originally trained in fine art, but he studied fashion design at Central Saint Martins, London, founding his eponymous label in 2001. He has established a reputation for high-glamour outfits designed in his studio in East London and then hand-made by skilled artisans at his small workshop in Delhi, India. He has always shown his work at London Fashion Week, where he added a lot of life and colour to this event with his designs.

Ashish Autumn Winter collection 2023

Now, The first major survey exhibition of fashion designer Ashish Gupta is shown at the William Morris Gallery. ‘Ashish: Fall in Love and Be More Tender’ will showcase over 60 designs, offering an unprecedented overview of Ashish’s subversive and playful practice.  

It will feature a major new commission by the Mumbai-based photographer and filmmaker Ashish Shah. Shot on location in India and London; Shah’s film and photography commission will explore the intricacy of global movement and how Ashish’s garments navigate the complex cultural relationships between India and the West.

Colours and vibrancy come together in this exhibition like an India In Bloom.

The exhibition ‘Ashish: Fall in Love and Be More Tender’ at the William Morris Gallery is on until the 10th of September 2023, more information here

If you enjoyed reading India In Bloom why not read The Golden Age Of Harlem?

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