Post No. 11,104

Date uploaded in London – –    14 JULY 2022          

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Jains have attributed different colours to people with different mental status. There is a popular story to explain this. Once a group of travellers came across a fruit tree. They were hungry and thirsty. So, all of them agreed that they must stop there and enjoy the fruits.

One of the travellers said let us cut the whole tree for plucking the fruits. Another said, there is no need to cut the tree; let us cut just one branch of the tree. Third one said that one small piece is enough. Fourth traveller said, let us climb the tree and pluck some fruits. Fifth person said, don’t take many fruits; just take whatever you could eat. Sixth traveller said, please don’t damage or destroy the tree. A lot of fruits are already on the ground. Let us consume them.

These six people are represented by six different colours what the Jains call LESHYA; that is the propensity of mind, an inclination or a natural tendency to behave in a particular way.

The person who wanted to cut down the whole tree is represented by black. The sixth person who suggested to use the fruits on the ground represents white colour- pure state of mind. In between comes blue, brown, red and yellow.

Jain scholars say that the first three leshyas lead the soul to ruin and the last three leshyas lead the soul to spiritual prosperity.


The Jain scriptures name the colours as-

Krsna – black

Nila – blue (Niila)

Kapota – grey (Kaapotaa)

Tejas – red

Padma – yellow

Sukla – white.

The doctrine of LESHYAS- colours or tinges of the soul is peculiar to Jainism. The etymology of the word is obscure. It is a subtle substance accompanying the soul.

A man who commits five-fold sins develops the BLACK leshya.

A man possessing bad qualities such as envy, anger, ignorance, deceit, lack of self -control, greed, cunningness – develops the BLUE leshya.

A man who is crooked in words and deeds, a thief, unrighteous person develops the GREY leshya.

A man who is humble, steadfast, free from deceit, well disciplined, restrained, who is afraid of sin, strives after the good, develops the RED  leshya.

A man who has little anger, pride, deceit and greed, whose mind is calm and tranquil, who is well controlled, who is attentive and careful, who is absorbed in good activities develops the YELLOW pistil / Padma leshya.

A man who avoids two types of evil meditation, but engages himself in auspicious thoughts , Dharma and Sukla dhyana/meditation, who controls his senses develops the WHITE leshya.

The blue, black, grey leshyas are sinful types and the soul of such people are born in miserable and low types of existence.

The red, yellow and white leshyas are good and auspicious types and persons with such colour leshyas attain a good form of existence.


Ten years ago, I wrote about the similarities between Mayan and Hindu cultures. And one of them is about their approach to colours:

“Hindus, Jains, Buddhists attribute four different colours to East, South, West and North. Mayas follow it.Maya colours :East-red, South- yellow, West- black, North- white. It is slightly different from Buddhists and Hindus. Shiva’s five faces are attributed with colours. Buddhists colours for directions was even mentioned by a Muslim traveller like Albiruni. Mahabharata attributes four colours for four Yugas (white,yellow,red and black)”.

So ,we know that Hindus, Buddhists, South and Central Americans Mayans took colours seriously and attributed them to directions or faces of Lord Shiva or Yugas (eras)

Linguists say that ancient people don’t have many words for colours. In some cultures they could say white and black only. In some other cultures they use the word of a fruit or flower to denote colour e.g. Rose, Orange

In short more the colours, more advanced is that people or community. Hindus have been using many colours from the days of Rig Veda. Sanskrit and Tamil literature have lot of references to colours. ( I submitted two research articles in World Tamil Conference held in Thanjavur in 1995; Colours in Sangam Tamil literature and Numbers in Sangam Tamil Literature)

 It is interesting to know that Hindus are the one who call their gods with colourful names Lord Krishna (Mr Black), Goddess Swehta/ Sarasvati (Miss White). Also, Peetambaradhari (Mr Yellow Shirt= Lord Krishna), Neelambharadhari (Mr Blue shirt= Lord Balarama; he is also called Mr White)

Hindus were the one who allocated colour coded seats in Theatres 2000 years ago (Read my articles on Bharatanatya Sastra).



Jains divided people on Mental colours; but Lord Krishna divided people on Satva, Rajas, Tamas types in Bhagavad Gita. Hindu ascetics believe in auras around men. Auras are the light or quality or atmosphere produced by a person; it is seen by Hindu ascetics, but invisible to normal men. When an ascetic is approached by a person, the ascetic sees it and blesses him or her accordingly. The sum total of one’s positive or negative energy is seen by them in colourful auras; probably that is the reason Jains have a chapter on Lehyas in their scripture.

Source :- The Teachings of Lord Mahavira , Pandit Dhirajlal Shah, Translated by N V Vaidya, 1967 (with my inputs)


Tags- Jains, Colours, Aura, Leshya, story of six travellers, fruit tree

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