Celebrate Holi Organically

Celebrate Holi Organically

HoliThe colorful festival of Holi is celebrated on Phalgun Purnima which comes in February end or early March. Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of ‘good’ over ‘bad’. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renews sweet relationships. On this day, people hug and wish each other ‘Happy Holi’.
But unfortunately, in modern times Holi does not stand for all things beautiful. Like various other festivals, Holi too has become ruthlessly commercialized, boisterous and yet another source of environmental degradation. To de-pollute Holi and make it in sync with nature, as it is supposed to be, several social and environmental groups are proposing a return to more organic ways of celebrating Holi.
The aim of this articles is to generate awareness amongst people about the various harmful effects around Holi celebrations and encourage people to celebrate an eco friendly Holi Organically!

Please read on to know about the three main environmental concerns around Holi –

A.    Harmful Effects of Chemical Colours

B.    The Holi Bonfire

C.   Watery Holi

A. Harmful Effects of Chemical Colours: In earlier times when festival celebrations were not so much commercialized Holi colors were prepared from the flowers of trees that blossomed during spring, such as the Indian Coral Tree (parijat) and the Flame of the Forest (Tesu), both of which have bright red flowers. These and several other blossoms provided the raw material from which the brilliant shades of Holi colors were made. Most of these trees also had medicinal properties and Holi colors prepared from them were actually beneficial to the skin.

Over the years, with the disappearance of trees in urban areas and greater stress for higher profits these organic colors came to be replaced by industrial dyes manufactured through chemical processes.

Around in 2001, two Delhi based environmental groups called Toxics Link and Vatavaran, did a study on all the three available categories of colors available in the market – pastes, dry colors and water colors. The study revealed that all of these three forms of chemical Holi colors are hazardous.

a) Harmful Chemicals in Holi Paste type colors

According to their researched fact sheet on Holi, the pastes contain very toxic chemicals that can have severe health effects. Please check the table below to know about the chemical used in various Holi colors and their harmful effects on human body.

ColorChemicalHealth Effects
BlackLead oxideRenal Failure
GreenCopper SulphateEye Allergy, Puffiness and temporary blindness
SilverAluminium BromideCarcinogenic
BluePrussian BlueContract Dermatitis
RedMercury SulphiteHighly toxic can cause skin cancer

(Source: Vatavaran)

b) Harmful Chemicals in Gulal
The dry colors, commonly known as gulals, have two components – a colourant that is toxic and a base which could be either asbestos or silica, both of which cause health problems. Heavy metals contained in the colourants can cause asthma, skin diseases and adversely affect the eyes.

c) Harms of  Wet Holi Colors
Wet colors, mostly use Gentian violet as a colour concentrate which can cause skin dis-colouration and dermatitis.

These days, Holi colors are sold loosely, on the roads, by small traders who often do not know the source. Sometimes, the colors come in boxes that specifically say ‘For industrial use only’. These colors can have an adverse effect and can cause several skin related problems.

Ways to Combat harmful effects Make your own Holi colors


i) Make Organic Colors in our Homes:

Holi festival lovers will be glad to know that it is possible to make simple organic colors in one’s own kitchen. Here are some very simple recipes to make organic colors:

ColorMethod of Preparation
Yellow1) Mix turmeric (haldi) powder with chick pea flour (besan)
2) Boil Marigold or Tesu flowers in water
Yellow liquid colorSoak peels of pomegranate (Anar) overnight.
Deep PinkSlice a beetroot and soak in water
Orange – red pasteHenna leaves (mehndi) can be dried, powdered and mixed with water.

ii) Purchase Organic Holi Colors
For those who do not have the time to make their own colors, there is the choice of buying organic Holi colors. Several groups are now producing and promoting such colours, although it is important to verify the ingredients of the colors and ensure you know enough about the source.
In Indore Organic Sansar, M.S.B. IIB, 105, New Siyaganj, Ph. No. 0731-2530220 is promoting such colors.

B. The Holi Bonfire:
The burning of fuel wood to create the bonfire for Holika Dahan presents another serious environmental problem. According to the facts of various studies done reveal that each bonfire uses around 100 kg of wood, and considering that approximately 30,000 bonfires are lit in the state just for one season, this leads to wastage of a staggering amount of wood.

Various Groups are now advocating one symbolic community fire, rather than several smaller bonfires across the city as a way to reduce wood consumption. Others are also suggesting that these fires be lit using waste material rather than wood.

C. Watery Holi:
In the current situation, when most cities in India are facing acute water scarcity, the wasteful use of water during Holi, is also being questioned. It is common for people to douse each other with buckets of water during Holi, and children often resort to throwing water balloons at each other. The idea of a dry Holi seems alien at first, especially as the climate becomes warmer around Holi, and the water provides welcome relief from the heat. However, considering that in some urban areas, citizens can go without water for several days, it seems wasteful to use so much water simply for a celebration.

Environmental Consciousness amongst People

The awareness about the environmental impacts of celebrating Holi is being brought to light by various NGOs. And gradually, more and more Indians are choosing to turn to a more organic and less wasteful way of playing Holi.

Ashish Kataria is a B.Sc. Agriculture, M.B.A. Agribusiness graduate. At present doing business of Organic Foods In Indore (M.P.)

2 Replies to “Celebrate Holi Organically”

  1. Hello Ashish,

    This is an informative article and in light of today’s time and needs. The ingredients of holi colours have changed over the last couple of years. Organic colours seems to be working so far. If one wants to play decent holi with colors, I think gulaal made from besan is also enough but yes, if you want to indulge in Holi madness where people like to dump others in marshes or paint them with silver and gold colours than any suggestion would not be worth trying.

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