by Gautam Shah >>
Toran is a decorative bridging element between two posts, columns, or door sides. Torans are permanent (built-in) decorative treatments as well as seasonal or festival-days decorations. Torans are synonymous with doors, Gates and points of entrance. A series of torans marks a passageway to an entrance. Toran also denotes beginning of a precinct.
Torans are a sign of welcome and honour for the bridegroom and a marriage procession arriving to a bride’s home (or a place of marriage), victors coming home, a deity being brought to home, or family member returning from a long-lasting voyage. A bridegroom has to wait under the toran of the gate till formally invited inside. Army platoons, returning from a remarkable venture touch their spearheads or flag-tips to the Toran.
Torans are hung over town or fort gates to ward off the evil or diseases. Shopkeepers in India hang seven green chillies and a lemon through a black thread to ward off evil effects of Saturn and generate good business. These hangings are changed nominally every Saturday, or more frequently during lean periods.
Torans touch the head part of an opening as a decoration, but a doorway Toran that touches or swipes the head blesses every person passing under it, showering with an abundance of love, prosperity, health and happiness. The Toran is very often a part of a bride’s trousseau as it brings prosperity and well being for the groom and his family.
Torans symbolically mark the alliance or dominance. No political gathering is without it. Toran hanging is beginning of festivity. Marriage, birth, child naming ceremony, social or political gatherings, all start with a Toran. Several torans, criss-crossing an open ground create effect of an arena.
Highly polished thin Bronze metal sheets were hung high masts, on Eastern front of the ancient Egyptian temples, to glow with the first rays of rising Sun denoting arrival of Ra -the Sun God.
The Torii Gate of Japan is symbolically very close to Gates of Sanchi Stupa, India. Both represent a bent bridging line (flexibility of string) between two poles, the essence of a Toran. Similarly the ‘Pai Lous’, or Gateways of Chinese architecture have features of Toran.
VARIETIES of TORAN
Earliest Torans were Buntings with objects hanging from a rope or string. The flexible string made the objects mobile and vibrant. The softness of the string and the dynamic form of the hangings are the essence of a Toran.
● Torans are made of perishable materials like flowers, (marigolds, roses, jasmine) fruits (bananas, pineapples and coconut), vegetables, green or dried leaves (Neem, Mango or Asopalav -Polyalthia longifolia, false ashok) of trees.
● Torans of Soft materials like pieces of ropes and fabrics (embroidered, patch-worked, printed and painted), paper (cut pieces, ribbons and formed into floral or lantern shapes).
● Torans are made of lasting materials, glass beads and thin metal sheets and foils and plastic extruded shapes.
● Architectural Torans are made of carved stones and wood. These built torans work as a bracket reducing the span of door heads. These may take the form of inclined support or corbelled-arch or partial support bracket.
● Chitra torans are drawn versions over top sections of the real or imaginary door, gates and also walls.
● Makara or Pātrā Toran (made of terracotta, brass and copper vessels are used on Temple entrances, town gates and in public squares.
● Illuminated Torans is a modern version of Toran. These could be as a series of lights, programmed to various types sequences, Neon lights, LEDs and LCDs with colour dynamic and variegated colour combinations. Other Torans in this category include Pyro Fire-works.