Author – Anjali Sinha
Come every Holi, I begin to get a weird feeling. Deep down my heart, I really want to have fun smearing coloured powders on friends and relatives, forgetting all my inhibitions. However, at the back of my mind, I am aware of how harmful these seemingly innocent colours are, not only to our health, but also to the environment. I face a dilemma – to play or not to play and until the year before last – I used to end up hiding in a room to avoid the boisterous crowd of neighbours, friends and relatives. To those who would be a little considerate, I would be ready with a list of excuses to avoid Holi colors, but would bravely face them – though after putting generous amounts of coconut oil on my hair, face, neck and hands.
The synthetic dyes used in the colours that we buy from the market contain harmful chemicals, which can cause mild health problems ranging from allergies, itchiness, eye puffiness, giddiness to serious issues like blindness, renal failure, cancer, etc. When we wash ourselves after playing with these toxic colours, these chemicals get into the environment and contaminate the soil and ground water, and spoil the natural habitat.
Last year however, I played Holi to my heart’s content, because I played with dry home-made Holi colours with a select group of friends! My friends and I had decided that we will make our own safe and skin-friendly colours. We were happy to realize that we could use everyday items from our household (mostly from our kitchen) to make a range of colours like red, yellow, green, blue, brown and black. The interesting part is that we could experiment with the proportions to create different shades of the same colour and arrive at the perfect shades we were looking for!
Let me share with you some ideas on how to make safe and environment-friendly colours for Holi. This will help us protect ourselves from the potential damage done by the synthetic dye-based colours. Just take such simple items like – haldi and besan; we use them almost everyday in our food and they will definitely form a bright yet safe colour for Holi. Take beetroot – when we boil beetroot for soups, the resultant colour we get is so lovely – so why can’t we play Holi with that! Same is the case with Henna powder, kattha, amla, etc.
Red hibiscus or china rose is a common plant that yields red colour. The plant’s flowers and leaves are good for our hair too. Such traditional knowledge is being forgotten over the years. For say, 100gm of the colour from hibiscus flowers, you need about 60-70 of them. You need shade dry them till they become so crispy that they can be crushed between the fingers. You need to grind it to fine powder in the mixie and then add flour/ atta to it. Similarly, Red Sandalwood (both powder and stick) is available in the shops at INR50 per 100gm. We can mix this with equal quantity of flour to get a smooth red powder.
We can use the following simple kitchen ingredients to make dry colour powders and wet colours:
Flours – Gram flour (besan); Wheat flour (atta); Flour (maida)
Greens – Spinach (palak); Mint leaves (pudina)
Extracts – Acacia catechu (Kattha – used in paan); Pomegranate peels (anaar); Beetroot
Flowers – Marigold (ghenda); red hibiscus (China rose); Flame of the Forest (Palash); and blue hibiscus (found in Kerala)
I am listing down simple ways to make your own Holi colours in the table below. Rather than give specific measured quantities, I would like you to experiment with the quantities to get the desired shades you want.
|Red /Magenta||Mix Red Sandalwood Powder with flour (1:1)Make powder of dry red hibiscus flowers and add flour to it (1:1)||Boil small pieces of beetroot in water and strain the liquid. Add more water in case you want to dilute the deep pink / magenta colour|
|Yellow||Mix one tablespoon of turmeric powder with two tablespoons of gram flour (besan) (1:2)||Mix turmeric with waterSoak peels of pomegranate overnight in water and strain the liquidBoil marigold or palash flowers in water|
|Green||Mix henna powder with flour||Mix a paste of mint (pudina)/ spinach (palak) with water and strain the liquid. Dilute it with water to get the right colour.|
|Brown||Mix powders of henna, gooseberry and turmeric||Mix paan kattha with water to get the brown colour you want|
|Blue||Mix small quantity of indigo powder with flour (1:3)Make powder of blue hibiscus flowers and add flour to it (1:1)||Mix indigo (powder or liquid) with water|
|Black||Mix all the above colours (red, blue, green and brown) to get a brownish black powder||Soak dried gooseberry (amla) overnight in an iron vessel and strain the black liquid|
Wishing you a very joyous, happy, safe and eco-friendly colourful Holi!