Holi ke Rang, Phoolon ke Sangh!
Natural and Safe Holi Colours
Compiled by Gunjan Doogar and Usha Srinivasan

Holi, the most colourful festival of our country, bids adieu to winter and heralds spring. Holi matches the riot of colours of spring in full bloom and earlier it was played by making colours from the flowers blooming at that time and even herbs, etc. The fragrant natural colours also had therapeutic value and were beneficial for our skin and health. But over the years, natural colours have been replaced by synthetic colours to the extent that most Holi colours sold in the market are oxidized metals or industrial dyes (like those for dyeing our clothing). All these are toxic and can result in anything from skin allergies to cancer, eye irritation to blindness.. and much more. When washed, they enter our water and soil, and cause even more pollution.

CLEAN-India campaigns against toxic Holi colours and through workshops and lectures has taught many students how to make simple, cheap yet beautiful environment and human friendly natural colours with which one can enjoy Holi. To get you started, a few colours that can be made easily at home are given below. They are just a few examples. Ask your parents and grandparents for more ! Experiment with different plants having colourful flowers or leaves. (Cross check to see if the plant, is not an allergen and not a weed). Crush the plant parts to extract concentrated juice or dry them in shade and powder to obtain beautiful natural colours.

The Chemical composition of a few Holi colours and their Health Impacts
Colour Composition Health Effects
Black Lead oxide Renal Failure, Learning disability
Green Copper Sulphate Eye allergy, Temporary blindness
Purple Chromium iodide Bronchial asthma, Allergies
Silver Aluminium Bromide Carcinogenic
Red Mercury Sulphite Skin cancer, Minamata disease (mental retardation, paralysis, impared vision...)
Source : Vatavaran

Ever Greens


1. Use mehendi / henna powder, separately or mix with equal quantity of any suitable flour to attain a lovely green shade. Use only pure mehendi and not the one mixed with amla (meant to be applied to our hair) as this would be brown in colour. Dry mehendi will not leave colour on your face as it can be easily brushed off. Only when it is a paste (i.e. it is mixed in water) it will leave a slight colour on your face. Thus, it can be used as a pucca / fast colour. Many people like smearing other person’s hair with colours. How about doing it with mehendi powder and saving a trip to the parlour?

2. Dry and finely powder the leaves of Gulmohur (Delonix regia) tree for a green.

3. Crush the tender leaves of the Wheat plant to obtain a natural safe green Holi colour.


1. Mix two teaspoons of mehendi in one litre of water and stir it well to get a green colour.

2. Green colour can also be obtained by mixing a fine paste of leaves like spinach / palak, coriander / dhaniya, mint / pudina, etc. in water.

Sunny Yellows


1. Mix two teaspoons of haldi / Turmeric powder with double the quantity of besan (gram flour). Haldi and besan are extremely healthy for our skin, and are also used widely as a ubtan while taking bath. You can use the ordinary haldi or "kasturi" haldi which is very fragrant and has enhanced therapeutic effects. Besan can be substituted by atta, maida, rice flour, arrowroot powder, fuller’s earth / multani mitti and even talcum powder.

2. Flowers like Amaltas (Cassia fistula), Marigold / Gainda (Tagetus erecta), Yellow Chrysanthemums, Black Babul (Acacia arabica) yield different shades of yellow. Dry the petals of these flowers in shade and crush them to obtain a fine powder. Mix appropriate quantity of the powder with besan, etc. or use separately.

3. Dry the rind of the Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) and grind to obtain a yellow coloured powder.


1. Add one teaspoon of haldi to two litres of water and stir well. This can be boiled to increase the concentration of colour and further diluted.

2. Soak Amaltas (Cassia fistula) or Marigold / Gainda (Tagetus erecta) flowers in water. Boil and leave overnight.

Resplendent Reds


1. Red Sandal Wood Powder / Raktachandan / Lalchandan (Pterocarpus santalinus) has a beautiful red colour and is extremely beneficial for the skin and is used in face packs, etc. This can be used instead of Red Gulal.

2. Dry red hibiscus flowers in shade and grind it to make a lovely red colour. To increase the bulk add any flour to it.

3. Sinduria, called Annato in English has a water chestnut shaped fruit which contains lovely brick red coloured seeds. These yield both dry and wet colours.


1. Put two teaspoons of Red Sandal wood powder in a litre of water and boil. Dilute and use.

2. Peels of Red Pomegranate boiled in water give red.

Children trained on making natural colours for Holi
3. For a bright orangish-red, mix thoroughly a pinch of chuna / lime powder (the one that we eat with our paan / betel leaves) with 2 spoons of haldi powder and a few drops of water. Use only after diluting with 10 litres of water.

4. Buras (Rhododendron arboreum) known as Burans in the Garhwal hills and Brans in the Kumaon hills gives a lovely red colour when soaked in water overnight.

5. Red hibiscus flowers soaked in water overnight give a red which also has medicinal value.

6. The Palita Madar / Pangri / Indian Coral tree/ (Erythrina indica), found commonly in coastal regions, has large red flowers. Soak the flowers in water overnight.

7. Boil wood of Madder Tree in water for a deep red.

8. Red colour can also be obtained from juice of tomatoes and carrots. This can be diluted with sufficient quantity of water to remove the stickiness.

Beautiful Blues


1. The Jacaranda flowers can be dried in the shade and ground to obtain a beautiful blue powder. The flowers bloom in summers.

2. The blue Hibiscus which is found in Kerala can be dried and powdered just like the red hibiscus


1. Crush the berries (fruits) of the Indigo plant and add to water for desired colour strength. In some Indigo species the leaves when boiled in water yield a rich blue.

Magnificent Magentas


1. Slice or grate one Beet root. Soak in 1 litre of water for a wonderful magenta. Boil or leave overnight for a deeper shade.

2. Boil the peels of 10 - 15 pink Onions in half litre of water for an orangish-pink colour. Remove the peels before using to remove the smell.

3. Soak Kachnar (Bauhinia variegata) flowers (pink variety) in water overnight, or boil for a pinkish colour.

Sacred Saffrons


1. The Flame of the Forest (Butea monosperma), known as Tesu, Palash or Dhak in vernacular languages, is the source of the wonderful, traditional colour for Holi. The flowers are soaked overnight in water and can also be boiled to obtain a fragrant yellowish – orange colored water. The dried flowers can be dried and powdered for a orange powder. Legend says that Lord Krishna used to play Holi with Tesu flowers. The flowers also have a lot of medicinal properties. Tesu blooms during the month of March.

2. Boil flower petals of red variety of Semul / Silk Cotton (Bombax ceiba ) in water.

3. Collect and dry the stalks of Harashringar / Parijatak (Nyctanthes arbor-tristis) flowers during the early winter season. Soak them in water to get a pleasant orange colour.

4. Mix a pinch of Sandalwood powder from Ujjain (also used in our temples) in 1 litre of water for an instant, beautiful and fragrant saffron colour.

5. Soak a few stalks of Saffron / Kesar in 2 table spoons of water. Leave for few hours and grind to make a fine paste. Dilute with water for desired colour strength. Though expensive, it is excellent for our skin.

Earthy Browns


1. Kattha (Acacia catechu), the one eaten in pan/beetle leaves, when mixed with water will give a brownish colour.

2. Boil Tea or Coffee leaves in water. Cool and use.

Back To Blacks


1. Boil dried fruits of Amla / Indian Gooseberry in an iron vessel and leave overnight. Dilute with water and use.

2. Extract juice of black grapes and dilute with sufficient quantity of water to remove stickiness.

I Love the flowers
they teach me how to sing and smile.
I Love the trees
they make the environment clean.
I Love the birds
they teach me how to hop and chirp.
I Love the hills
they teach me how to stand straight.
I Love the soil
they teach me how to grow plants.

, VI A, Montfort School, Delhi


A maple golden brown in colour
a creation by the creator’s hand
now ages, nay has already aged
Time to see more of the world
though at peace where he is

The leaf resides there
clinging to a branch
amidst the joyous hootings
of his former companions.
Now lying down there
in a golden brown shawl of leaves

’Ere mate! How’s it down there?’
’The greatest joy to imagine’
’Freedom to see to feel, at last.’
And so our protagonist, he detaches
twisting amid turning, he falls to the floor.

He’s free now
to look at his distant cousins
on the mountain nearby
to gaze at those firs
already enveloped by snow
To see those blue skies
Those friendly birds now soaring

The winds pick up
’Wheee ! I’m flying’
And then our hero parts company
Left in the midst of those dangerous pines
They might bombard any moment

He flies again, thankfully
and rests on concrete steps
Through the window he looks
Watches a man hide himself
’He’s afraid of us!’
The Homo sapien comes out
goes a little way
kills one of the distant cousins
and use him for firewood.
The maple leaf laughs at the meekness of man.
Then he is trampled by a human foot.

Anirudh Burman
Montfort School, Delhi

Wishing you all a colourful Holi for all times to come with natural and safe colours!

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