Ideally, the joyous festival of Holi is meant to celebrate the
arrival of Spring while the colors used in Holi are to reflect of the
various hues of spring season. 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 natural 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!
Please read on to know about the three main environmental concerns
around Holi -
1. Harmful Effects
of Chemical Colours
- The use of toxic chemical
- The use of wood for burning
- The wasteful use of water
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
(Kesu), 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 natural colours came to be replaced by
industrial dyes manufactured through chemical processes.
Around 2001, two environmental groups called Toxics Link
based in Delhi, 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
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.
||Eye Allergy, Puffiness and temporary blindness
||Highly toxic can cause skin cancer
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.
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.
Click to read more on Holi Chemical
Action Taken by Environmental Groups
Following the publication of these studies several environmental groups
took up the cause to encourage people to return to a more natural way of
celebrating Holi. Amongst these,
Make your own Holi colours
- Navdanya, Delhi published a book called Abir Gulal, which
spoke of the biodiversity that was the source of natural colours.
- Development Alternatives, Delhi and Kalpavriksh, Pune
have developed educational tools to teach children simple ways of
making their own natural Holi colours.
- The CLEAN India campaign has been teaching children how
to make beautiful natural colours.
Holi festival lovers will be thrilled to know that it is possible to make
simple natural colors in ones own kitchen. Here are some very simple
recipes to make natural colours:
||Method of Preparation
||1) Mix turmeric (haldi) powder with chick
pea flour (besan)
2) Boil Marigold or Tesu flowers in water
|Yellow liquid color
||Soak peels of pomegranate (Anar) overnight.
||Slice a beetroot and soak in water
|Orange - red paste
||Henna leaves (mehndi) can be dried, powdered and mixed
For more information please read How to make Natural colours?
Purchase Natural Holi Colors
For those who do not have the time to make their own colours, there is the
choice of buying natural 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.
2. The Holi Bonfire
The burning of fuel wood to create the bonfire for Holika Dahan
presents another serious environmental problem. According to a news article,
studies done in the state of Gujarat reveal that each bonfire uses around
100 kg of wood, and considering that approximately 30,000 bonfires are lit
in the state of Gujarat just for one season, this leads to a wastage of a
staggering amount of wood.
Groups such as Sadvichar Parivar 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.
3. A Dry 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
Environmental Consciousness Amongst People
It is a relief to notice that the awareness about the environmental impacts
of celebrating Holi are being brought to light by various NGOs. And
gradually, more and more Indians are choosing to turn to a more natural and
less wasteful way of playing Holi.
HoliFestival.org expresses its gratitude to Ms Manisha Gutman, Coordinator,
Safe festivals campaign, Kalpavriksh Environment Action Group - Pune
for contributing this article.