I have heard tales about a sacred flower, native to the Indian subcontinent which resembles Agni (fire) and was an important source of colour, used in paintings, fabrics and as 'Gulaal'. Not having seen or touched these flowers before, we wanted to find out everything about them.
A few years back, we identified magnificent trees from afar, seemingly on fire. Their blazing orange colour duly gives them the name - ‘flame of the forest’ (पलाश in Hindi). They briefly bloom in late winter to the onset of spring and quietly wither away in a few months. Native to the Indian sub-continent, Palash has many names colloquially - Palash, Dhāk, Chula, or Tesu
As summer started setting in, ‘flames of the forest’ resurrected in March and in the winter of 2021 and every year since then, we forage the fallen flowers with the help of local village women who call them ‘ḍhāk’ in Awadh, where this flower is extensively used as a symbol for the arrival of spring and the colour of love.
The velveteen petals have copious amounts of colour, which can be extracted by heating them in water (we solar-heated them for a week). The flowers bleed and the cloth comes to life by imbibing their colour - reminiscent of sunsets, warmth and afterglow