Blue and cultures A profound meaning | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 03, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 03, 2018

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Blue and cultures A profound meaning

It is of little wonder that people everywhere have incorporated blue into their specific cultures, with specific meanings and connotations. On a clear day, it is very natural to look up and get mesmerised by the sky above, the precise name for this awe-inspiring shade of blue is azure.  The sky's blue, or azure, gets its name from the mineral “azurite”, one of the traditional national colours of Italy, taken from the colours of the House of Savoy, which had laid the foundation of the first modern united Italian state.

Other variations of this colour have prominent presence in the flags of many other countries including Russia, Australia, Chile and Cuba.

The history of blue in politics dates back to the mid-18th century, when blue was the trademark colour of Britain's Tory party. Then the French Revolution saw blue as the uniform for soldiers of the Revolutionary government. Many centre-right liberal political parties in Europe have also had dibs on this colour. Moving towards Asia, we have the Blue House, which is the residence of South Korea's president.

Blue also plays a key role in beliefs and practices. Christians believe blue to be the colour of the Virgin Mary's robes. Hindus have their supreme deity, Vishnu, along with his avatars Krishna and Ram, portrayed with blue skin. The reason behind this is that Vishnu is thought to be “the preserver of the world,” and is hence deeply connected with water. Lord Shiva, the destroyer is also depicted to be blue-toned. Orthodox Jewish dresses  have blue threads sewed on, the reason being that in Judaism, blue represents the colour of 'clear midday sky' and symbolises God's Glory. In the Islamic sphere, especially in the Middle East, blue is a protective colour and it can be found colouring many of the most famous mosques. Blue tiles also are featured prominently in mosque decorations.

Since antiquity, blue has been the ultimate colour of reverence. Egyptian myths have it that the depths of the blue waters represented the female principle and the latent mysteries of life. The hair of Egyptian gods were made up of the vivid blue lapis lazuli rock. In Chinese mythology, the Azure Dragon is one of the four symbols of the Chinese constellations and is associated with torture, ghosts and death. For the Turks, blue symbolises safety and protection from evil. We all know about the curse of the Evil Eye. To shield themselves from this curse, the Turkish have created blue amulets, an example being the Nazar charms.

For readers and writers of English alike, “feeling blue” or “having the blues” are the very first phrases used to replace 'sadness'.

Moving onto the lighter shades, turquoise and sapphire are the shades of gems acknowledged from time immemorial. A blue sapphire engagement ring is also considered a symbol of fidelity. Blue is conventionally associated with the sea and the sky, with infinity and distance. Hence, the uniforms of sailors are usually dark blue, and those from the air forces with a lighter blue.

With so many interpretations and so much in terms of interpreting blue, let us not forget the 'pale blue dot' or 'the blue marble', our shining blue jewel of a planet suspended in space. It may as well stand as an inspiration for far-away visitors! So, the next time you have a look on the array of colours around you, be sure that you will spot blue, only to have a smile curl on your lips. You'll remember how big an influence this colour has on the cultural diversities around the world (and maybe even off-world!)

Photo: Collected

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