White is a “Mourning Color”

“In India, we wear white to funerals. White is the color of barren soil. White is the color of dead things, ghost, sand. Infertile things that don’t grow anymore. For us black and red are very good color. Red soil is very iron-enriched because it’s good to grow stuff, and black soil is usually river soil so it’s very fertile. You can grow a lot of stuff in it…So for us red and black aren’t the mourning colors. The mourning color is just white. When people die they don’t turn black, they turn white. White isn’t even a color, it’s just color-less.”

The informant was not told of this custom from another individual, is it just a tradition that she grew up around. Growing up in India, the culture around her emphasized the color white as one of mourning or things without life. When she moved to America, she found it very strange that people wore black to Christian funerals. Black had a completely different meaning to her. This custom is significant to her because it makes more sense to her that white be a color of mourning. To the informant, black is a rich color. It is the color of hair, eyes, and clothing. To the informant, white has no color and symbolizes a blank slate. The point of dressing the deceased in white at an Indian funeral is to provide the soul with a blank slate in the afterlife.