From children playing with water balloons to youngsters smearing colour on each other, the celebrations marking the Festival of Colours usually begin weeks in advance. However, with the markets in Delhi-NCR flooded with spray cans, dyes, and other synthetic colours, our festivities seem to hinge on unnatural products.
While these may seem vibrant and innovative at first, most of these products contain hazardous chemicals such as lead, copper, mercury, silica, among others, that can have adverse health impacts on our skin and hair. Many nature-conscious individuals are making the switch from these dangerous alternatives to home-made colours. The latter is not just safe for one's health but also organic and environmentally friendly.
Embracing hues of nature
The festival of Holi marks the transition from winter to spring, celebrating the harvest and commemorating a fertile land for the new season. "Holi typically is a festival of celebrating nature. Over time, we have lost touch with this reason and it has become all about synthetic dyes and colours," shares Manya Cherabuddi, a natural colour artist from Hyderabad who also runs the #AsliRang movement that seeks to inform people about the need to celebrate Holi the natural way.
Anand Gram-based SowGood Learning Farm founder Pragati Chaswal conducts workshops with children around Holi, and teaches them how to make gulal (coloured powder) by making use of kitchen ingredients.
"It is important that children understand that every aspect in the ecosystem needs to be taken care of. Around Holi, various activities can help children become more conscious, aware, and create something sustainably by themselves," says Chaswal.
A variety of kitchen ingredients - beetroot, turmeric (haldi), spinach, and carrot - as well as flowers such as tesu, rose, and marigold can be used to create organic gulal.
Explaining the process of making colours naturally, Chaswal mentions, "One must soak the ingredient in water overnight. For instance, if you are making green colour, you soak spinach in water. Then you grind the spinach to make a paste. Mix it with corn flour and let it dry. Once it is smooth, just powder it and one can easily use it."
Those playing Holi in a garden have the option to create water-based colours. "Water-based colours can be made by boiling plants or flowers in water. After one is done playing Holi, the water, which is completely natural, can go to the plants without causing any wastage," concludes Cherabuddi.