Why Indigo? The Mystery behind Newton’s VIBGYOR

Why Indigo? The Mystery behind Newton’s VIBGYOR

Reading Time: 13 minutes

Four and a half centuries ago, Isaac Newton used a prism and a dark room to split white sunlight into its coloured components. He labelled seven primary colours, later known by the mnemonic VIBGYOR. Curiously, he chose indigo to be one of the seven, a colour that most people fail to pick out from the spectrum. Why did Newton choose this elusive colour to be one of his chosen seven? Why indigo? The Nerd Druid Investigates!

VIBGYOR and the rainbow colours

In my previous article, I spoke at length about the history of the colours in the rainbow, what VIBGYOR and its inverse ROYGBIV mean, and how non-anglophone cultures perceive the seven rainbow colours. Here’s a quick recap.

Rainbow in world cultures

Most cultures associate the rainbow with a god holding a bow. For the Estonians, it is the thunder god Erruk. For the Indians, it is either the thunder god Indra or the prince of Ayodhya, Rama. The Norse do not have a bow-wielding divine being. Instead, for them, the rainbow is the Bifröst bridge in divine Asgard.

Entry of the gods into Valhalla via the Bifröst bridge. Nordic mythology. Image Credit : Unknown.
Entry of the gods into Valhalla via the Bifröst bridge. Nordic mythology. Image Credit : Unknown.

Aristotle and the Greeks

The Greeks ascribed three primary colours to the rainbow : porphyra (dark purple), khloros (green), and erythros (red). Aristotle allowed for a fourth, yellow, but made it quite clear that this was a composite, being darker than white but lighter than red.

Newton and the Spectrum

In his 1671-72 paper New Theory about Light and Colours and then, in more detail, in the 1704 masterpiece Opticks, Newton describes how he placed a glass prism in front of a hole in his window, and, having darkened his room, observed on the opposite wall

the Spectrum … appear tinged with this Series of Colours, violet, indico, blue, green, yellow, orange, red, together with all their intermediate degrees in a continual succession perpetually varying…

Newton's diagram of the spectrum of white light due to refraction from a glass prism. Image Credit : Isaac Newton, reproduced in "Memoirs of the life, writings and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton", by David Brewster.
Newton’s diagram of the spectrum of white light due to refraction from a glass prism. Image Credit : Isaac Newton, reproduced in Memoirs of the life, writings and discoveries of Sir Isaac Newton, by David Brewster.

VIBGYOR and ROYGBIV in anglophone cultures

Post-Newton, anglophone cultures adopted ROYGBIV as a mnemonic for schoolchildren to learn and remember this seried of seven colours. Schoolchildren in the US were told that this refers to a man named Roy G. Biv, while those in the UK learnt a bit of history too, with Richard Of York Gave Battle In Vain.

The inverse, VIBGYOR, which agrees with Newton’s own colour order, is probably an Indian English thing.

BayNeeAaShoHoKawLa, the Bangla rainbow

Bengali people too had a nice mnemonic for the rainbow colours. BayNeeAaShoHoKawLa (বেনীআসহকলা) was, like VIBGYOR, made out of the first letters of the seven colours. However, there is a crucial difference. While VIBGYOR is

Violet > Indigo > Blue > Green > Yellow > Orange > Red

BayNeeAaShoHoKawLa, when translated to its equivalent English colour names, reads

Violet > Blue > Cyan > Green > Yellow > Orange > Red

Modern spectrum. Image credit : Unsure.
Modern spectrum. Image credit : Unsure.

A quick comparison with a good modern spectrum shows that the Bangla BayNeeAaShoHoKawLa is probably more accurate than VIBGYOR. So, the question is…

Why Indigo?

Most people were perfectly happy with indigo being the second (or the sixth, if you take ROYGBIV) for almost two and a half centuries after Newton’s spectrum. However, in the early part of the 20th century, some curious sould began to ponder the significance of seven primary colours. Some of these theories have long been discredited, others are perhaps more plausible. Analysis of Newton’s choice got a fresh impetus in the 1970s, and one would very much like to believe it was due a letter from a reader in a 1973 edition of the British popular science magazine New Scientist. The letter, by a Mrs H Davoll, of 10 Broadlands Avenue, Shepperton, Middlesex, UK, titled Why Indigo?, was published on 13 Dec 1973. In it, Mrs Davoll says that

Ever since I first learned the sequence of colours in the rainbow, I have been puzzled and annoyed by the inclusion of indigo in this sequence…I feel that there is an element of the Emperor’s clothes situation in this matter, most people not daring to admit that they cannot distinguish another colour between blue and violet.

Let’s find out why, shall we?

Colour nomenclature : Sociopolitical Effects

Compare VIBGYOR with BayNeeAaShoHoKawLa again. I’ll lay them out one after the other, along with a modern spectrum :

Violet > Indigo > Blue > Green > Yellow > Orange > Red

Violet > Blue > Cyan > Green > Yellow > Orange > Red

Modern spectrum. Image credit : Unsure.
Modern spectrum. Image credit : Unsure.

Let’s imagine, for a moment, that both versions are accurate, and actually refer to the same thing. If that is so, then would we be amiss in thinking that, for some reason, what Newton thought was blue is what we know as cyan nowadays? There are precedents for this sort of linguisting colour labelling phenomenon. Homer, the blind Greek poet of the Epics, referred to

…the wine-dark sea…

while we, social media savvy modern humans, have great difficulties in figuring out the correct colour of an evening gown. Take the colour of the sky, for instance. Some would say it is cyan, some would prefer azure, while people with simpler vocabularies, such as me, would probably have to make do with sky-blue.

Image of the RGB colour star. The three primary colours--red, blue, green--at the three vertices of the upright triangle. The secondary colours--magenta (R+B), cyan (B+G), yellow (G+R)--at the three vertices of the inverted triangle. Tertiary colours rose (R+M), violet (M+B), azure/teal (B+C), spring green/sea blue (C+G), chartreuse green (G+Y), and orange (Y+R) form the intermediate vertices of the 12-pointed star. Image Credit : DanPMK
RGB colour star. The three primary colours–red, blue, green–at the three vertices of the upright triangle. The secondary colours–magenta (R+B), cyan (B+G), yellow (G+R)–at the three vertices of the inverted triangle. Tertiary colours rose (R+M), violet (M+B), azure/teal (B+C), spring green/sea blue (C+G), chartreuse green (G+Y), and orange (Y+R) form the intermediate vertices of the 12-pointed star. Image Credit : DanPMK

Newton’s indigo is today’s blue?

Take a look at the RGB colour star. Would you say that the colour of the sky is what is labelled as azure in the diagram? Or is it perhaps closer to cyan? If it were up to me, I would probably opt to lighten azure a little and call it sky-blue.

Therefore, isn’t it at all possible that, just as we posited that Newton’s blue might be today’s cyan, Newton’s indigo might also be today’s blue? After all, indigo had been adopted in Europe as a natural dye since about a hundred years before Newton’s experiment. It is entirely possible Newton himself owned clothing that had been coloured blue using the indigo dye. Would it be impossible for him to possess and wear a blue bowtie, dyed with indigo, and state, “I wear an indigo bowtie now. Indigo bowties are cool!”

Orange and Indigo : Fruit and Dye

Consider oranges. They are a fruit, but they are also a colour. Which came first?

Well, the fruit did. Portuguese merchants brought sweet Indian oranges to Europe in the late 15th century, displacing the bitter Persian oranges grown in southern Europe. The word orange itself has a circuitous route,

narangas (Sanskrit) > narang (Persian) > naranj (Arabic) > naranza > narancia > arancia (Italian) > orange (French, English)

Photograph of an orange and a half. Image Credit : Oasis Botanical Company, unknown photographer.
An orange and a half. Image Credit : Oasis Botanical Company, unknown photographer.

After arriving on English shores, the fruit lent its name to the colour; the first English usage was in 1512. By Newton’s time, a century and a half later, the colour was not just connected to delicious sweet oranges, but had entered daily use, supplanting yellow-red, saffron, and citrine as the most popular word describing that particular colour.

Similarly, indigo, though originally a dye, must have been closely connected with anything dark blue, prompting Newton to use it in his spectrum.

Photograph of a piece of indigo plant dye from India, c. 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) square. Image Credit : Evan Izer (Palladian)
Piece of indigo plant dye from India, c. 2.5 inches (6.35 cm) square. Image Credit : Evan Izer (Palladian)

All this was, of course, quite unnecessary when it came to the other five colours, Newton’s Originals. Red, Yellow, Green, Blue, and Violet were all in use for centuries by the time Newton landed in the scene, and had probably lost their charm as colour names. Perhaps orange and indigo were still exotic enough to be used fashionably.

Why Indigo?

If so, why wasn’t Mrs H Davoll equally bothered about orange? That is because of how current affairs and recent history shaped our perception off colour and usage of certain colour names. Unlike the fruit orange, a daily item in our lives, the dye indigo isn’t as ubiquitous.

The various names for dark blue

For instance, British naval uniforms were first introduced in 1748. They were coloured blue using indigo dye. Soon, though, that particular dark shade of blue came to be known as navy blue. Over the years, indigo has lost out to navy as a label for a dark blue in the fashion world. Among painters, the preferred term for a dark blue pigment is ultramarine.

Painting of Captain Edward Vernon (1723-1794), British Naval officer, wearing a dark blue uniform probably dyed with indigo. Painted in the mid-18th century, oil on canvas. Image Credit : Francis Hayman (painter), Royal Museums Greenwich UK.
Captain Edward Vernon (1723-1794), British Naval officer, wearing a dark blue uniform probably dyed with indigo. Painted in the mid-18th century, oil on canvas. Image Credit : Francis Hayman (painter), Royal Museums Greenwich UK.

Ever since the discovery of the first artificial dye in the mid-19th century, the use of the dye indigo has dropped off steadily, and so has the use of the colour term. While navy blue and ultramarine have survived into the 21st century, indigo has fallen by the wayside. So much so that nowadays, the word is used only when referring to the rainbow, or recollecting Newton’s work.

Colour perception : Psychological Effects

In 1920, Edridge-Green developed a theory of colour perception in which he separated colour vision into seven classes or psycho-physical units. Naturally, these units were based on Newton’s seven colours. According to Edridge-Green, a normal person is hexachromic; she should be able to see six colours–red, orange, yellow, green, blue, and violet. People with extraordinary vision, those who can all seven of Newton’s colours, are classified as heptachromic. These people have eyes and vision sensitive enough to distinguish and detect an indigo in between blue and violet.

It is difficult to believe Newton was a normal hexachromic like most other people; surely one of the greatest human geniuses must have extraordinary vision too, no?

Well, no. In fact, Newton’s vision was actually somewhat poor. So much so that, during his prism spectrum experiment, he had to ask

…an Assistant whose Eyes for distinguishing Colours were more critical than mine…

to draw the boundaries of the spectral colours. In his own words, this was

…because my owne eyes are not very criticall in distinguishing Colours…

Newton’s assistant

Image of Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English scientist and mathematician, using a prism to break white light into spectrum. With Cambridge room mate John Wickins. Engraving of 1874. Image credit : Getty Images.
Isaac Newton (1642-1727) English scientist and mathematician, using a prism to break white light into spectrum. With Cambridge room mate John Wickins. Engraving of 1874. Image credit : Getty Images.

Newton’s assistant in the prism experiment, the heptachromic, was possibly John Wilkins, his roommate at Cambridge. Wilkins and Newton were roommates for 20 years, and possibly enjoyed a sort of Holmes-Watson dynamic. Wilkins left Cambridge in the early 1680s and moved 240 km away to Stoke Edith. There he joined the parish, got married, and had a son. The departure of his Watson hit Newton hard; he buried himself even deeper into his research, and channeled his loneliness into work. In this period, a meeting with the astronomer Edmund Halley led him to channel his energies into what would ultimately become the Principia Mathematica, and with it the birth of calculus.

No, not the Tintin character.

Colour perception : Physical Effects

Raman and bright sunlight

Edridge-Green’s theory in no longer in favour, and has been discredited. Instead, C.V. Raman, in his book The Physiology of Vision (1968) had suggested that perhaps it was Newton’s use of sunlight that led to indigo. Raman’s hypothesis was based on the following fact; use a bright enough source of light for your spectrum experiment and you might well be able to make out a band of colour in between blue and violet, a colour that might as well be called indigo.

Photograph of Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, Indian physicist. Image Credit : The Nobel Foundation.
Chandrasekhara Venkata Raman, Indian physicist. Image Credit : The Nobel Foundation.

Sounds plausible. However, if you do indeed perform the experiment with sunlight, then, under ideal viewing conditions, you should be able to detect as many as 200 separate hues of colour. Whether you choose to name all of them, or merely a certain subset, would quite likely depend on your personal preferences, shaped by your culture and background.

Thus, I’m afraid we’re still on Why indigo?.

The Glass Prism

Modern optical lenses and prisms are made out of two materials, crown glass and flint glass. The latter contains lead, is denser, and has a higher refractive index, which means light rays bend more while passing through it1 Newton probably used crown glass, although it seems his prism had a slightly higher refractive index than is usual. This was possibly because his prism had some lead in it too. Nevertheless, the spectrum it creates seems heavier on the blue-end.

 

Image showing comparison of Newton's prism spectrum diagram and the modern spectrum. Notice how the green, yellow, orange, and red bands in Newton's diagram are narrower than they should be, while the purple/violet, indigo/blue, and blue/cyan bands are wider. This is possibly because of the kind of glass Newton's prism was constructed out of. Image Credit : (Modern Spectrum) Unknown. (Newton's Spectrum) Isaac Newton. (Composite) The Nerd Druid.
Comparison of Newton’s prism spectrum diagram and the modern spectrum. Notice how the green, yellow, orange, and red bands in Newton’s diagram are narrower than they should be, while the purple/violet, indigo/blue, and blue/cyan bands are wider. This is possibly because of the kind of glass Newton’s prism was constructed out of. Image Credit : (Modern Spectrum) Unknown. (Newton’s Spectrum) Isaac Newton. (Composite) The Nerd Druid.

This bias towards the blue end might have prompted Newton and Wilkins to identify an extra colour in between violet and blue.

Colour number : Mystical Effects

In addition to mathematics and physics, Newton had considerable interest in alchemy, astrology, and theology. He wrote almost two million words on these subjects, a number that is almost twice the million words he wrote on science. His mystical interests have led him to be accused of being

…misled by a predilection for the number seven which during many ages has been regarded with a sort of mystical veneration…

It is entirely possible Newton was as fascinated with the number seven as the ancients were. There were enough references to that number in antiquity for Newton to have been influenced enough to have expanded his original five colours to seven, by inserting orange and indico.

Seven celestial bodies

The number of known celestial bodies in antiquity was seven : the Sun, the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter, and Saturn. Uranus and Neptune were discovered after Newton’s time, and Pluto is now a dwarf planet.

Seven days in a week

There are seven days in a week. Be it the Gregorian or Julian calendars of Europe, or the Bangla and neighbouring calendars of India, we always seem to find seven days. Also, these calendars attribute the days of the week to the seven celestial bodies–Tuesday to Mars, Wednesday to Mercury, Thursday to Jupiter, Friday to Venus, and Saturday to Saturn, the first two being rather obvious.

Image of seven planets, seven days, seven metals, seven gods. Image Credit : Unknown, possibly JoeDubs(?).
Seven planets, seven days, seven metals, seven gods. Image Credit : Unknown, possibly JoeDubs(?).

Seven metals of antiquity

The number of known metals in antiquity was seven–Gold, Silver, Iron, Mercury, Tin, Copper, and Lead. These were associated with the days of the week as well as the planets.

Planets, Days, Metals, Gods

The table below shows the ancient associations.

Metal Day Planet Greek/Roman god Norse god
Gold Sun Sunday Helios/Sol Sunna/Sól
Silver Moon Monday Selene/Luna Máni
Iron Mars Tuesday Ares/Mars Tyr
Mercury Mercury Wednesday Hermes/Mercury Odin
Tin Jupiter Thursday Zeus/Jupiter Thor
Copper Venus Friday Aphrodite/Venus Freya
Lead Saturn Saturday Cronus/Saturn
Animation of planets and days, again. Image Credit : Unknown, possibly JoeDubs(?).
Planets and days, again. Image Credit : Unknown, possibly JoeDubs(?).

Seven Deadly Sins

There are seven deadly sins in Christian theology

  1. Envy
  2. Greed
  3. Pride
  4. Lust
  5. Gluttony
  6. Sloth
  7. Wrath

Of course, one could counteract these evil evilnesses by embodying the seven virtues.

Seven heavens and worlds

Different ancient cultures and religions believed in seven heavens, or worlds divided in parts of seven. For instance, in Hinduism, there are fourteen worlds, and they are divided thus (I’m quoting directly from Wikipedia)

According to some Puranas, the Brahmanda is divided into fourteen worlds. Among these worlds, seven are upper worlds which constitute of Bhuloka (the Earth), Bhuvarloka, Svarloka, Maharloka, Janarloka, Tapoloka and Satyaloka, and seven are lower worlds which constitute of Atala, Vitala, Sutala, Talatala, Mahatala, Rasatala and Patala.

Seven day Creation myth

Creation myths in the Abrahamic religions, particularly Christianity, propound the belief that god built Creation in seven days.

Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

There were Seven Wonders of the Ancient World

  1. Great Pyramid of Giza
  2. Hanging Gardens of Babylon
  3. Temple of Artemis at Ephesus
  4. Statue of Zeus at Olympia
  5. Mausoleum at Halicarnassus
  6. Colossus of Rhodes
  7. Lighthouse of Alexandria.
A collage of The Seven Wonders of the (ancient) world, depicted by 16th-century Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck.
A collage of The Seven Wonders of the (ancient) world, depicted by 16th-century Dutch artist Maarten van Heemskerck.

Seven Liberal Arts

In ancient Greece, knowledge of the Seven Liberal Arts were considered essential for a free person. These were

  1. Grammar
  2. Logic
  3. Rhetoric
  4. Arithmetic
  5. Geometry
  6. Theory of music
  7. Astronomy.

Correspondingly, or perhaps not, the number of core subjects one has to write one’s tenth level exam in Bengal, the dreaded Madhyamik, is also seven. Bengali and English are the languages, History and Geography make up the humanities, while Mathematics, Physical Sciences (Phys+Chem) and Life Sciences (Biology) make up the sciences.

However inspired Newton might have been from these many examples to expand his colour roster to seven, one should remember that he was, after all, a consummate logical scientist. Would he really have no scientific reason for inserting indigo and orange? Shouldn’t one justifiably expect scientific answers to why indigo, as also why orange? Answers that are not only scientific, but also reveal a crucial insight about how the world works?

Colour pitch : Light and Music

DO – RE – MI – FA – SOL – LA – TI

Julie Andrews in the 1964 Hollywood movie</em> The Sound of Music. <em>The most famous song in this musical, Doe-a-deer, teaches the Do-Re-Mi scale. Image Credit : sound-of-music-dot-com.
Julie Andrews in the 1964 Hollywood movie The Sound of Music. The most famous song in this musical, Doe-a-deer, teaches the Do-Re-Mi scale. Image Credit : sound-of-music-dot-com.

If you have seen The Sound of Music, you will be familiar with these seven notes. Sung joyously by Julie Andrews, these seven are the names of the notes in the diatonic scale. These can also be represented as

C – D – E – F – G – A – B

or as

Sa – Re – Ga – Ma – Pa -Dha – Ni

in Hindustani classical music.

Musical notes are audio frequencies

Musical notes are, essentially, audio frequencies. In Western music, the A key in the fourth CDEFGAB series of the piano, denoted as A4, is set to exactly 440 Hz, and other notes are derived from it by changing frequency in units called semitones. Each octave has 12 semitone intervals. For instance, C4 is 9 semitones lower than A4. Under the popular equal temperament scheme, this makes C4‘s frequency 261.63 Hz.

A larger unit in music theory is the whole tone. It is double the semitone, and together, these two are instrumental in setting scales. For instance, in a diatonic scale of seven notes, there are 5 whole tones (T) and 2 semitones (S), always in groups of TTS and TTTS. Where you start from determines which mode you are following.

Ionian Mode

The CDEFGAB series that I began this section with is in the oft-used Ionian mode, with intervals TTSTTTS. Thus, in order to go from C to D, or from D to E, you need to increase by a whole tone T. E to F is a semitone S. F to G, G to A, and A to B are three whole tone (T) intervals TTT. Finally, to get to the higher C, you need to increase by a semitone (S).

Dorian Mode

In Newton’s time, however, the Dorian mode was much more in vogue, with notes DEFGABCD and intervals TSTTTST. The table below might help

Mode Ionian Dorian
Notes C–D–E–F–G–A–B–C D–E–F–G–A–B–C–D
Intervals T–T–S–T–T–T–S T–S–T–T–T–S–T

In the Dorian mode, the semitones occur at positions 2 and 6, exactly at the positions orange and indigo appear. Adding Newton to the table above (and removing Ionian mode), we get the answer to why indigo.

Mode Dorian Newtonian
Notes D–E–F–G–A–B–C–D R-O-Y-G-B-I-V
Intervals T–S–T–T–T–S–T P-S-P-P-P-S-P

where P are primary colours and S secondary.

 

Figure 4 (pg 91) from Newton's _Opticks_ (1704), slightly cropped. I have added the colours, the notes, and the Dorian intervals. Answers the question : Why indigo? Image Credit : Isaac Newton / The Nerd Druid.
Figure 4 (pg 91) from Newton’s _Opticks_ (1704), slightly cropped. I have added the colours, the notes, and the Dorian intervals. Answers the question : Why indigo? Image Credit : Isaac Newton / The Nerd Druid.

Newton’s Insight

As Newton himself writes (Opticks, pg 92)

…I delineated therefore in a Paper the perimeter of the Spectrum FAPGMT, and … I found that the … rectilinear sides MG and FA were by the said cross lines divided after the manner of a musical Chord…to be in proportion to one another, as the numbers, 1, 8/9, 5/6, 3/4, 2/3, 3/5, 9/16, 1/2, and so to represent the Chords of the Key, and of a Tone, a third Minor, a fourth, a fifth, a sixth Major, a seventh, and an eighth above that Key: And the intervals Mα, αγ, γε, εη, ηι, ιλ, and λG, will be the spaces which the several Colours (red, orange, yellow, green, blue, indico, violet) take up.

Appreciate Newton’s insight and genius. What are colours? They are simply frequencies of light; their pitch are seen and not heard, their instruments of detection are the eyes and not the ears. They are both, ultimately, waves. Very different types of waves, granted, but waves nevertheless, with frequencies and wavelengths.

Why indigo? Because Music!

Image of three centuries of colour scales, beginning with the pioneer, Isaac Newton, who connected DEFGABCD with ROYGBIVR. Image Credit : Unknown.
Three centuries of colour scales, beginning with the pioneer, Isaac Newton, who connected DEFGABCD to ROYGBIVR. Image Credit : Unknown.

 


References

Books

  1. Aristotle : Meterology, Greece (350 BCE).
  2. Newton, Isaac : Opticks or, a Treatise of the reflexions, refractions, inflexions and colours of light . Also two treatises of the species and magnitude of curvilinear figures, Sam Smith & Benj. Walford, for the Royal Society (MDCCIV, 1704).

Papers

  1. Newton, Isaac : New Theory about Light and Colours, Philosophical Transactions (1672).
  2. McLaren, K. : Newton’s Indigo and references therein, Color Research and Application (1985).

Articles

  1. Fisher, Len : Perceptual thresholds: Music inspired Newton’s rainbow, Nature (2015).
  2. Morr, Kelly : Why are there 7 colors in the rainbow?, 99designs, (2016).
Facebook Comments

Footnotes

  1. Well, actually, light rays decelerate more while passing through materials with higher refractive indices. Since acceleration and velocity are vectors, this manifests as a change in the direction of light as it passes through various mediums.

14 Replies to “Why Indigo? The Mystery behind Newton’s VIBGYOR”

  1. Interesting article. Reminded me of Ja-Ni-Va-Li-Pi-Na-La (translates to VIBGYOR configuration from Gujarati). It was fun read. Although I was wondering if you would like to mention something about the bandwidth of each color?

      1. Thanks Somdeb, looking forward to the next post then.
        The colours in Gujarati are as follows (with personal understanding of how the names came to be)
        Jambli- Violet, based on the colour of Jambu (Jamun in Hindi, the fruit)
        Nilo-Indigo, this is the colour of the dye indigo as it is. But there are descriptions of the sky with this colour at times in literature, especially when the sky is said to be of dark blu-ish hue
        Vadadi-Blue. Ironically the word literally means as the colour of the clouds since ‘vadad’ is a Gujarati word for clouds. But we also describe the colour of sky as vadadi, in my understanding this colour is closer to the cyan of the modern spectrum than blue
        Lilo-Green. The colour of greenery, or fresh plants. Pretty much standard!
        Pilo-Yellow. The colour of the turmeric powder. Again, pretty much standard.
        Narangi-Orange. The fruit is also called by the same name.
        Lal: Red. Nothing controversial here too!

        Writing this, I had the re-realisation of how interesting the lower range of wavelengths are in comparison with their longer counterparts! Reminds me of an Asimov creation “savouring slightly sour, substanceless taste of the long wave lengths”!!

        1. Thank so much for that informative reply Jalpa.

          It is indeed extremely interesting that orange (the colour) is called narangi in Gujarati. This means they share the same Sankrit root, as I believe I have traced in the article. Now I would really like to find out where the words santra (Hindi) and komola (Bangla) came from.

          What is even more interesting is how you describe blue/cyan. As I wrote, in Bangla, it is aakashi, which means the colour of the sky. However, mapping this onto the colour of the clouds isn’t something I would have expected. More study is needed methinks.

          1. Interesting indeed. I am not sure, but I believe the word “santra” to have Persian origin. But as you said, more study is needed for sure. For example, I believed the narangi to be of Arabic origin since it was similar in spanish as well. That is until recently when I looked for the fruit origin and found it native to India, this indicating the name origin to India as well. Interesting how words get Incorporated in different languages​. 🙂

          2. Well, Wikipedia agrees with you; the Persian word is apparently sangtara.

            The evolution of language and indeed words is quite a fascinating topic indeed.

          1. Yes, I confirmed with a native Hindi speaker (in case I was wrong). The fruit is called nanrangi as well as santra.

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