Brown: The Color That Defines Indian Society (And Maybe Your Morning Chai)

by Ayshwarya C N

Brown is the new black. And red. And green. And every other color under the sun. In India, the color brown is more than just a color – it’s a way of life. From the rich soil that nourishes our crops to the color of our skin, brown is everywhere you look.

Historically, brown has been a staple of Indian art and design. Whether it’s the warm earth tones that characterize Indian textiles or the clay and mud used to construct traditional homes, brown is always front and center. And let’s not forget about Indian food – where would we be without the rich, warm browns of garam masala, turmeric, and cumin?

The beauty of brown in India is multifaceted, extending beyond its cultural and spiritual significance to encompass the natural environment as well. From the arid deserts of Rajasthan to the rocky mountains of the Himalayas and the sandy beaches of Goa, brown can be found throughout the diverse Indian landscape, reminding us of the beauty and resilience of nature and the importance of protecting it for future generations. This connection to the environment is reflected in popular beverages like coffee and tea, both of which come in shades of brown. Coorg, a region in Karnataka, is renowned for its high-quality coffee, which owes its unique flavor and aroma to the region’s soil and climate. Likewise, chai, a beloved beverage in India, derives its warm brown color and distinctive flavor from a blend of aromatic spices, including cardamom, cinnamon, and cloves.

The brown color of popular beverages like coffee and chai is a testament to the richness and warmth of Indian hospitality and the many natural resources that are valued in Indian society. These drinks are often enjoyed with family and friends, or as a way to take a break from a busy day.

Brown is an important element of Indian culture, representing its practicality, resourcefulness, and warmth, as well as being intertwined with its cultural, environmental, and social significance. From the earthy tones of traditional textiles to the use of clay and mud in construction, brown has been a staple in Indian art, design, and food for centuries.

In addition to its cultural and social significance, brown is also associated with simplicity and humility, as seen in traditional clothing styles like the cotton dhoti and sari. These garments reflect the practicality and resourcefulness of Indian people, as well as their respect for the natural world and its resources.

Moreover, the warmth and comfort associated with the color brown is reflected in Indian households, where warm, earthy tones are often used in interior design. Wooden furniture, mud walls, and clay pottery create a welcoming atmosphere that reflects the hospitable nature of Indian people.

The significance of brown extends beyond the borders of India as well. In other cultures, brown is a color that is often associated with stability, reliability, and dependability. In fashion, brown is a popular choice for creating timeless, classic looks that never go out of style. Brown leather boots, bags, and belts are wardrobe staples that are universally loved and appreciated for their durability and versatility.

But brown isn’t just a pretty color. It’s also steeped in cultural and spiritual significance. For example, brown is associated with the goddess Kali, who is often depicted with dark skin. In fact, brown skin is seen as a sign of beauty and fertility in many parts of India. In Indian society, the color brown has taken on significant social and cultural symbolism. For example, the color is often associated with Indian spirituality, and is commonly used in religious rituals and ceremonies.

However, not everyone is so accepting of brown skin. Colorism – the preference for lighter skin tones – is a real problem in India. People with lighter skin are often considered more attractive and successful, while darker-skinned individuals are often referred to as “dusky” or “wheatish” in India, face significant discrimination and prejudice. It’s enough to make you see red – or, in this case, brown.

Colorism is deeply rooted in Indian society and has far-reaching impacts. Studies have shown that people with lighter skin have better chances of marriage, employment, and social mobility. Additionally, darker-skinned individuals are often the targets of verbal and physical abuse. The entertainment industry in India has also been criticized for perpetuating colorism, as actors with lighter skin are typically preferred over those with darker skin.

Despite these challenges, there is reason for hope. In recent years, there has been a growing awareness of colorism in Indian society, and campaigns to challenge the biases associated with skin color have gained traction. A great number of Indian celebrities have spoken out against this insidious form of prejudice. And while brown skin may not be everyone’s cup of chai, it’s high time we start accepting all skin colors for what they are – beautiful, unique, and worthy of celebration.

In conclusion, the color brown holds a complex and multifaceted significance in Indian society. While it is deeply intertwined with the country’s history, culture, and spirituality, it is also closely linked to issues of skin color and discrimination. By understanding the complexity of the color brown and the role it plays in Indian society, we can begin to work towards greater inclusivity and acceptance for all individuals, regardless of their skin color.

So the next time you’re sipping on a cup of spicy masala chai or enjoying the warm glow of a beautiful sunset, take a moment to appreciate the beautiful shades of brown that make up the world around us. After all, life would be pretty boring without a little bit of brown.

Whether it is seen as a reflection of the natural world, a symbol of simplicity and humility, or a source of warmth and comfort, brown has played an important role in shaping the way we see and experience the world around us. By recognizing and celebrating the beauty of brown, we can learn to appreciate the richness and diversity of our shared human experience.

About the Author:

Ayshwarya C N is an experienced Communication Coach and trainer who majored in English. She currently serves as the Placement and Soft Skills Trainer at the Industry Interaction Cell of Amity University in Punjab, India. Prior to joining Amity, Ayshwarya taught English Language and Soft Skills for five years at Chitkara University. She has conducted several successful workshops on professional development, soft skills, and interview preparation for students and working professionals. Ayshwarya also served as a skilled copyeditor, having worked on over 20 national papers, and was a Language Editor for the University Journal Editorial Board. Ayshwarya has published her work in several notable publications, including the Times of India, Kitaab, and Travellers of India Magazine. In addition to her professional work, Ayshwarya is an avid traveler and has already ventured to five different countries. With a multifaceted background and a passion for teaching, she’s a knowledgeable trainer committed to helping students and professionals succeed in their careers by acing interviews and developing key skills.


  1. No words, just applause.

  2. Exceptionally well written!