Thursday, March 1, 2012

Organic Holi Green Holi - Choose purity over toxicity

The 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 colours 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 colours 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 colours available in the market - pastes, dry colours and water colours. 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.

Health Effects
Lead oxide
Renal Failure
Copper Sulphate
Eye Allergy, Puffiness and temporary blindness
Aluminium Bromide
Prussian Blue
Contract Dermatitis
Mercury Sulphite
Highly toxic can cause skin cancer
(Source: Vatavaran)

b) Harmful Chemicals in Gulal
The dry colours, 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. Chemical based colors can not only harm your skin,eyes,hair but can also be carcinogenic and cause permanent disorder to your precious organs.

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

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

Ways to Combat harmful effects Make your own Holi colours

i) Make Organic Colours in our Homes:
With a little bit of imagination, exciting, natural and eco-friendly colours can be made at home too. Feel free to experiment textures and strength of colours to your taste.

For dry powders you may use these:

  • GREEN: Mehandi or henna powder or powder from dried tulsi.
  • RED: Grind dried petals of hibiscus or rose flowers.
  • YELLOW: Grind dried petals of marigold or chrysanthemum flowers, or use turmeric powder.
  • BLUE: Grind dried petals of jacaranda or blue hibiscus flowers.

To increase the bulk to the above, you can add any flour such as chickpea flour(besan), wheat flour(atta or maida) or rice flour:

For wet colours, you can derive them in the following manner:

  • GREEN: Grind into a fine paste spinach, mint, coriander and dilute with water.
  • RED: Soak pomegranate peels or red hibiscus petals in water overnight. Juice of tomatoes and carrots give an orange-red colour though they need to be strained and diluted.
  • YELLOW: Boil turmeric in water to get a concentrate. Allow to cool and dilute as required. Alternatively, boil marigold or chrysanthemum petals in water, and leave overnight to cool.
  • MAGENTA: Grate beetroot and soak in water. To get a stronger colour, boil and allow to cool.
  • BROWN: Boil tea and/or coffee in water and strain.
  • BLACK: Boil dried Amla(Indian Gooseberry) in an iron pot (kadai) and cool overnight. Dilute as necessary. Alternatively, grind black grapes, dilute and strain.

(preparation ideas condensed from

All these home made preparations are totally harmless, and can be quite therapeutic. You could use the dry powders, along with multi-coloured lentils for making a chemical-free rangoli for your Holi decorations.
Wish you a really fun and “green” Holi!

ii) Purchase Organic Holi Colors
For those who do not have the time to make their own colours, there is the choice of buying organic Holi colours. Several groups are now producing and promoting such colours, although it is important to verify the ingredients of the colours 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 colours.

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

Stop abusing chemicals and start respecting nature. This Holi, become one with nature by using colors made from leaves, fruits, roots, barks & flowers of plants, and packaged in Eco-friendly materials. 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.


  1. Ashish, we as an organization Craftsvilla are also promoting the usage of organic, ecofriendly holi colors and urge everyone to play only with these colors. Anyone interested in buying organic holi colours can contact us via phone +91-92232-11777 or else visit our website