neel (India)

A blue colorant used for “bluing” whites to make them appear brighter. Scientifically, white with a tint of blue reflects more light, making it appear its whitest. Neel is the Hindi term for indigo, similar to the Spanish and Arabic terms for indigo, ail. The practice of bluing whites is not exclusive to India, but is also observed in African cultures, Mexico, America, and likely elsewhere. It is possibly a very old practice, and was probably once done with natural indigo powder due to its easily fading, fugitive nature. In India, because khadi is naturally off-white in color, bluing made it appear bright white and therefore more similar to British mill-made cottons. The neel common in India today is typically an ultramarine powder used in lieu of indigo. We dye with neel to achieve the faintest hint of indigo blue. See also khadi; indigo