Health Topics

Healthy Living

March 2010
Eco Friendly Holi Colours
Anju Poddar
Coloured with myths of many hues, Holi is a Hindu festival which marks the advent of spring and is celebrated with colours. Traditionally, natural dyes made from flowers were used.
In Vrindavan, Holi is still celebrated according to tradition, with rose petals and tuberoses. But almost everywhere else, tradition has been replaced with toxic and synthetic colours, which are commonly available in the market. Purple colour now comes from chromium iodide, black from lead oxide, etc. These chemicals, made from substances like industrial dyes are not only a health hazard but also contribute to significant amount of pollution of local water resources. 4 Steps to Unpollute This Holi, let us be a bit more responsible. Our water resources are getting polluted with the entry of these toxic colours. Let us also try to reduce the amount of water wasted in washing off these chemical colours from the skin. Try these steps:
  1. Assess the various physical parameters of water quality for the water in which Holi colours have been dissolved. You’ll be amazed seeing the pollution!
  2. Students can execute a health survey a day or two before Holi and after it, of those people using toxic colours. This will give them a brief idea of the colours’ effect on people using the colour-mixed water.
  3. Observe the flowering trees, herbs, roots etc in your locality. Try to find and prepare suitable natural colouring agents from them. Experiment with various flower petals, leaves and roots. Make homemade concoctions by simple physical methods like boiling, soaking, drying and grinding the natural products to get different colours. Keep in mind that the colours must be harmless to the skin and eyes. Given this idea, you can also search for chemicals, which are harmless to use, and are cheaply available.
  4. Prepare solutions of natural Holi colours in water in separate glass beakers. Assess their various physical and chemical parameters – reaction on skin / allergic test, pH levels etc. Use the best, of course.

Dry Colours
Here’s how you can make some ecofriendly colours at home.

Yellow: Mix one part ground turmeric to two parts of flour or besan. You can also use atta, maida, rice flour, arrowroot powder, Fuller’s Earth (multani mitti) and even talcum powder in place of besan! Mix appropriate quantity of the powder with besan or use separately. You can use cheaper methods like drying the rind of the bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) and grinding it, to obtain a yellow powder.

Red: Red sandalwood can be ground into fine powder and used as natural red colour, but may be expensive and difficult to procure. So, use herbal vermillion instead. Mix sun dried and powdered extracts of hibiscus, marigold, sunflower etc for the same. To increase the bulk, add any flour to it.

Green: Mix pure mehendi (henna) powder with equal quantity of flour to get a lovely shade of green. Mehendi will not leave its imprint on your face as it can be easily brushed off. You can also crush the leaves of the wheat plant to obtain a natural and safe green Holi colour.

Black: Take a small/medium sized steel container and brush it with a little mustard oil. Hold it (oil-side down and facing the candle flame) on top of a lighted candle with the help of a pair of iron tongs. After some time you will find black soot collecting in the container. This is natural collyrium or kajal, and can be used as a black dye.

Wet Colours
  1. Magenta: Finely grate beetroot and mix with water. This will yield a magenta colour.
  2. Red: Boil 10 to 15 peels of onion in half a litre of water. Cool to use as a red colour. Lac dye may also be used to produce a natural red colour. This can be mixed with required amount of water to get the correct diluted effect as desired. Nodules of certain leafy creepers like the pui also produce a reddish dye which can be soaked in water to bring the desired shade of colour. Buras (Rhododendron arboretum) known as burans in the Garhwal hills and brans in the Kumaon hills gives a lovely red colour when soaked in water overnight.
  3. Purple: Take some amount of potassium permanganate and put it in a bucket of water. It will readily dissolve and the hue would be that of a deep purple, which could be used as a harmless chemical dye.
  4. Blue: Crush berries (fruits) of the indigo plant and add to water for desired colour strength. In some indigo species, the leaves yield a rich blue, when boiled in water.
  5. Black: Boil dried fruits of amla (Indian gooseberry) in an iron vessel and leave it overnight. Dilute with water and use.
Try and experiment with new colours using flowers like marigold, yellow chrysanthemum, tesu, various leaves like spinach etc to make your own natural Holi colours. Demonstrate this to your friends in the neighbourhood – and especially the children. Collectively, plan to use only natural colours this Holi.
Anju Poddar, successful home maker fascinated by Hindu traditions and festivals.
  • The information on this site does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for medical care provided by a physician.
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