After Pooja Sethi, a Mumbai-based student, played Holi last year, she felt dizzy and unwell. When her parents took her to a doctor, she was told that the gulal she had used contained powdered glass and silica, which had damaged her skin and eyes. Pooja took a few days to recover, but many people face more serious issues. Regular Holi colours contain chemicals like lead oxide, copper sulphate and mercury sulphate that can cause much damage.
So, what’s the solution? It’s simple. Use chemical-free colours that are organic. Vivek Choudhary, Founder, Holy Naturez, a Patna-based eco-friendly organisation, says, “Holi colours made from natural materials are skin-friendly and non-toxic compared to chemical pigments that are dangerous to skin and health and create pollution.”
Roopashree Sharma, Founder, Atharvan Life, says, “Natural elements like herbs and dried flowers have antibacterial, anti-inflammatory and antimicrobial properties and water infused with these healing herbs converts into negative ions.”
Craftizen Foundation is an NGO that works to preserve and grow Indian craft and artisanal skills. The team has been using discarded temple flowers to make organic Holi colours. The brand is aptly named Petalists. Craftizen works with organisations like NIMHANS, Grameena Abhyudaya Seva Samsthe (GASS), Orione Seva and Richmond Fellowship Society. Mayura Balasubramanian, Founder, Craftizen Foundation, explains, “We customise skills based on the ability of our artisan beneficiaries. While working with persons with intellectual disabilities, we wanted to use natural materials as they are also therapeutic in nature.”
Dr. T Sivakumar, Additional Professor, Psychiatric Rehabilitation Services, NIMHANS, Bangalore, says, “We are working with Craftizen to get our patients to make organic colours. We believe it is important to send out a message that persons with mental illness can be productive in society. Patients who make the products will receive the entire proceeds from the sale.”
Do It Yourself
Synthetic Holi colours are a recent addition. Earlier, the colours were made from natural ingredients alone. Flowers that bloom in Spring, like Flame of the Forest, and other common flowers like marigold, rose and hibiscus were used to make different shades.
Organic Holi colours can be made with readily-available kitchen ingredients like corn flour, rice powder, food colour and essential oils. Shreedha Singh, Co-Founder, The Ayurveda Co., shares a quick recipe. Mix corn flour (90 gm), rice powder (3 g), a few drops of any essential oil (3 ml) and a dry and bright food colour (4 gm) in a clean and dry utensil. Let it stay for some time. Sift and use as required.
l Yellow: Use haldi. Dried palash / Tesu flowers also give a beautiful yellow when soaked in water
l Orange: Dry orange peel or marigold flowers and grind into a fine powder
l Green: Dry and powder moringa leaves, curry leaves or spinach
l Red: Dry beetroot in the sun and grind or use Red Sandalwood powder / Hibiscus powder / powdered rose petals
l Blue: Blue Hibiscus powder
l White: Finely grind rice at home or use white sandalwood / fuller’s earth or Multani Mitti
l Purple: Boil purple cabbage in water for a lovely lavender colour
l Brown: Amla Powder
l Black: Activated Charcoal powder