Holi is the most exuberant and colourful festival of India. It is truly a festival of joy, fun and frolic where people of all ages lose their inhibitions to play with colour. In fact, Holi festivals are organised in places as far as Utah in North America! According to North Indian tradition, Holi marks the harvest festival and the arrival of spring. In the Hindu lunar calendar, Phalguna Purnima is the last day of the year and this full moon heralds the ‘Vasanta-ritu’, the spring season. In south India, it is celebrated as ‘Kamana Habba’, the festival of Lord Kama, the deity of desire. Naturally, showering colour was the best way to express the arrival of spring!
However, the modern day Holi festival has become a hazardous play of chemicals with the increasing use of synthetic dyes. These synthetic dyes contain harmful chemicals such as Lead Oxide (found in black colour), Copper Sulphate (green colour), Aluminium Bromide (silver colour), Prussian Blue (blue colour) and Mercury Sulphite (red colour). These can cause renal failure, eye allergy, puffiness, temporary blindness, cancer etc.
Before the arrival of modern industrial chemicals, used to prepare their own colours from the dried flowers in the form of powders ‘gulal’ and boiled them to get concentrated, deep wet colours. Red, green and pink were made from flowers like palash (Flame of the forest), marigold, hibiscus, rose and other organic derivatives. These colours were good for the skin and did not harm the human body and had therapeutic value as well.
Today, there are three categories of colours available in the market – pastes, dry powder and water colours – all of which are hazardous. The hazard increases when these are mixed with oil and applied to the skin and these “rogue” chemicals sneak easily through the skin into the body system
|Green||Copper Sulphate||Eye allergy, puffiness and temporary blindness|
|Blue||Prussian Blue||Skin Dermatitis|
|Red||Mercury Sulphite||Skin cancer|
Fortunately, some voluntary organisations have endeavoured to build awareness about toxic Holi colours. However, when there are no alternatives, people did not have any choice but to use synthetic colours. Thankfully, in the last few years, various institutions have made serious efforts to provide eco-friendly natural Holi colours that can be easily used as powder and paste.
Youth for Seva (YFS) has been the leading the movement inculcate the usage of natural Holi colours among the youth in South India. In the last few years, Hyderabad Goes Green has organised a sale of natural Holi colours made from leaves, fruits, roots, barks and flowers of plants. In fact, you can make your own Holi colour kit made of natural pigment dyes.
Method of Preparing Pigment Colours
|Yellow||1) Mix turmeric (Haldi) powder with chick pea flour (Besan)|
2) Boil Marigold or Tesu flowers in water
|Yellow liquid colour||Soak peels of pomegranate (Anar) overnight|
|Deep Pink||Slice a beetroot and soak in water|
|Orange – red paste||Henna leaves (Mehendi) can be dried, powdered and mixed with water.|
Firsrt Image – commons.wikimedia.org
– Factfile –
February 2000 Factsheet no 8 The Ugly Truth Behind The Colourful World
Natural Holi Coloursin Hyderabad