Author: Sylvia Houghteling
Source: Religions 2020, 11(12), 627; doi: 10.3390/rel11120627
Publication type: Article
Abstract: This paper explores the metaphorical and material significance of short-lived fabric dyes in medieval and early modern South Asian art, literature, and religious practice. It explores dyers' manuals, paintings, textiles, and popular and devotional poetry to demonstrate how the existence of ephemeral dyes opened up possibilities for mutability that cannot be found within more stable, mineral pigments, set down on paper in painting. While the relationship between the image and the word in South Asian art is most often mutually enhancing, the relationship between words and color, and particularly between poetry and dye color, operates on a much more slippery basis. In the visual and literary arts of South Asia, dye colors offered textile artists and poets alike a palette of vibrant hues and a way to capture shifts in emotions and modes of devotion that retained a sense of impermanence. More broadly, these fragile, fleeting dye materials reaffirm the importance of tracing the local and regional histories even of objects, like textiles, that circulated globally.