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When Buddha gave up his mortal body, he was covered with a special robe dyed in saffron. Ever since then, Buddhist monks have adopted saffron as the colour that can help them achieve their goal of 'moksha' or deliverance.

Saffron is omnipresent in all the religions that have branched out from Hinduism. You see saffron in the garb of  monks living on alms. It is the colour of the religious standard that flutters over Sikh gurudwaras and Hindu temples. For the Sikhs it represents fight against injustice, and for Hindus a religious fundamentalism.

Truly blessed is saffron!

Truly beloved is saffron of the Hindu gods. Saffron paste is used to annoint virtually all deities of the Hindu pantheon. The worshipper, in a mark of piety, also dots his/her own forehead with a small portion of saffron paste. This 'tilak' mark or 'bindu' is ubiquitous in India. Of course much of the use of this 'bindu' is purely ceremony or cosmetic, but in concept, the red mark has its genesis in very profound tantric thought.

The power of saffron

This precious spice brings piety and power to religious practice.

Certain practices for the awakening of the kundalini, require saffron as one of the essentials in performing the rituals.

The colour of saffron also plays a major role in the ' yantra', a graphic that symbolically represents aspects of tantric philosophy. The yantra is a 'centring device' for meditation practice, in which form and colour work like a visual tool.

Importance of saffron in the Gandharva Tantra

The Gandharva Tantra begins with the two stanzas, one of salutation to the Elephant-god and the other of benediction invoking the protection of the Goddess Kundalini. The tradition regarding the appearance of the Tantra is that the rival sage Vishvamitra, being envious of the prophetic powers of Vasishtha, performs a difficult penance. Failing even thereby to obtain equality with Vasishtha he goes to the North and implores the help of Dattatreya who consoles him and reveals the Gandharva Tantra which he has heard from Nandikeshvara. The tantra is in the form of a dialogue between Shiva and Parvati.

The practitioner should take care that when worshipping he should have everything red, such as saffron ointment, red dress, red seat etc. and while following instructions regarding the use of the articles of worship and their places, he should have the Shrichakra drawn in red lead, placed on the Simhasana.

Yantra painting by Mr Gyankar Bajracharya
The colours used in each Yantra serve a different purpose:
  • Red: relaxing, hot, vitalising and stimulating to the adrenals
  • Orange: Warm and cheering
  • Yellow: Hot, stimulating to the brain and nerves, also arouses optimism
  • Green: relaxing, cool, refreshing
  • Blue: Cold, creates serenity and has a calming effect on the nervous system

Romance of saffron Ceremonial saffron Therapy & saffron