Col. V. Katju
the Indian festival of colours, gaiety, fun and frolic is associated
with Lord Krishna and his Gopis. One can imagine the divine abandon
with which the supreme Avatar (incarnation) mingled with his
consorts spraying fragrant radiant colours at each other in hues of
red, green and pink from flowers like tesu (Flame of the forest),
harsringar, marigold, hibiscus, rose and other organic derivatives.
The colours were good for the skin and did not harm the human body
and had therapeutic value. Till the 1950s, families used to prepare
their own colours from these dried flowers in the form of powders
called gulal and boiled them to get concentrated, deep wet colours.
Such a colourful Holi was soon
overtaken by commercialisation which started providing exotic
colours but in a highly dangerous form. Toxic chemicals are being
used to get the desired colours :
Purple from Chromium Iodide
Red from Mercuric Oxide
Green from Copper Sulphate
Black from Lead
Glitter from Mica and glass
All these are highly dangerous to the skin,
eyes, respiratory tract, can cause renal disorder and some are even
carcinogenic. They do not wash away easily, get mixed in drains and
sewage systems and pollute water bodies and the soil. The festival,
which used to be a healthy revelry of both men and women, boys and
girls, is no longer an exuberant, healthy event. Womenfolk shy away
in fear of being splashed and smeared with toxic colours, enamel
paint, and even cow dung.
To make people aware about these eco-friendly
natural colours, CLEAN-India has spearheaded a campaign against
toxic Holi colours. Our message for Eco Holi is "Holi Ke Rang,
Phoolon Ke Sang". Workshops have been carried out in numerous
schools of Delhi, Noida and Gurgaon and 17 other CLEAN-India centres.
CLEAN has spread awareness and imparted training to make simple
eco-friendly Holi colours among thousands of school children and
teachers. Here the students were apprised of the harmful effects of
the Holi colours sold in the market and were taught how to make
natural and safe colours at home. The excited students promised to
spread this message to their friends and family. Many people have
returned to natural colours for Holi.
Some of the comments from our
knew that I could make Holi colours on my own from flowers and
Prerna, Class VII
Now I can
have my own palette of colours to play Holi.:
Ravi, Class VIII
Holi because grease and other dirty Holi colours made me sick.
Now I look forward to it.
In Delhi, CLEAN-Delhi has been
fortunate enough to get full support from the Delhi government in
spreading awareness on a mass scale. In close co-ordination with
Delhi Government and the active encouragement of the Chief Minister
Smt. Sheila Dikshit, CLEAN-Delhi took upon itself to propagate
eco-friendly Holi colours for the festival on 29 March 2002. The
slogan was: "Khelo Holi Naturally" and "Holi Ke Rang Phoolon Ke
Sang". The Delhi Government was gracious enough to provide a stall
at Delhi Haat, near the INA Market. The Environment Systems Branch
of Development Alternatives geared itself for the task. The main
objectives were :
among the citizens regarding the harmful effects of toxic,
chemical based colours.
eco-friendly colours based on organic ingredients, which were
income to marginalised groups of the weaker sections of society
and women in the rural sector.
CLEAN-Delhi children were asked to create
awareness among the communities. They took a pledge not to use
synthetic colours in their homes and (alongwith their parents)
impressed upon the various Residents Welfare Associations in their
zones on reviving the traditional ways of playing Holi. The tribal
self-help groups of women in Newari Block of Tikamgarh District, M.P.
went on an overdrive. Under the watchful eyes of D.A. professionals
at TARAgram, the regional centre near Orchha, the plan took shape.
types of coloured to be prepared:
Red – from
rakt chandan and rose
Green – from henna and tulsi
Yellow – from turmeric and marigold
Wet Colour – from dried tesu
Students preparing natural colours for Holi
Production at TARAgram
The Hand-made Paper Unit at TARAgram was asked
to manufacture gift packs along with kalawa, the sacred
orange-yellow thread for wrapping the pack. Care was taken to ensure
that no polythene was used for packaging. The gift packs were made
by 40 Sahariya Tribal Women who work in the Handmade Paper Unit at
TARAgram. Customised packaging was done for Dr. Morepen Group of
pharmaceutical industry on receipt of firm orders. Turmeric, which
is widely grown in the Bundelkhand region was procured. Self-help
groups were given instructions to ensure quality production in terms
of consistency, correct mix of ingredients and soothing colour. Tesu
flowers were collected and dried and put in packages having
instructions on preparation of water colours like boiling the dried
flowers in correct quantity of water, keeping it overnight and
diluting it with water for a soothing yellow-orange fragrant colour.
As it was the first year when these colours
were being introduced, the strategy was to produce a limited number
of packages. Shops in various markets of Delhi were contacted for
their co-operation as any change would be resisted by wholesalers
and retailers who do brisk business with synthetic colours during
this one-day festival.
The shopkeepers were initially hesitant to
take large quantities even after an assurance that unsold colours
will be taken back. They were also coaxed to retain minimum profit
margins, keeping in view society’s commitment to lend a helping hand
to the low income group and poorer sections of the community.
The Armed Forces also showed keen interest,
especially the Engineer-in-Chief’s Branch at Army Headquarters and
Rajputana Rifles Regimental Centre. The latter took a bold step to
completely ban toxic colours in the Regimental Centre and gave
strict orders to the civil contractor not to keep them in the
Distribution & Sale
As the auspicious day neared, the sales picked
up. Two women members of the self-help group from Newari were
invited to Delhi and managed the stall at Delhi Haat, explaining to
the shoppers the ingredients and methods of preparation. Very soon,
awareness was created. CLEAN-Delhi schools were most generous and
co-operative in not only purchasing sizeable quantities for
themselves but also taking packets for their local communities,
explaining to the people the benefits of eco-friendly colours. Ms.
Naini Jayaseelan, Secretary Environment in the Delhi Government, not
only gave a helping hand but also did a bit of marketing herself.
For the Delhi markets, it was a novelty,
something they had never seen before and a replacement of the
hideous toxic colours for which they never realised there would be
an alternative. Children who had gone out with their parents for
Holi shopping were so receptive of the novelty that they prevailed
upon their parents to spend a bit extra for the natural colours.
Such a care for the environment by those at this tender and
formative age was most heartening to see.
Although the introduction of these
eco-friendly colours was miniscule keeping in view the large
population, it has been a grand leap forward in creating awareness
about eco-friendly products.
CLEAN-India Programme has taken propagation of
eco-friendly colours during Holi rather seriously. It is a part of
their social commitment of campaigns against environmental
degradation practices. Once the awareness is created, the citizens
will join in wholeheartedly to create a movement, which will act as
a soothing balm on the wounds that we human beings have inflicted on
A tiny spark will certainly ignite a fire of
consciousness, a realisation of being in tune with nature. We have
to think what we can give to improve the environment and not what we
keep on taking endlessly from it, far beyond our needs.
We are confident that a radical attitudinal
change will result during the Holi of 2003, reminding us of our
culture, our traditions and the Divine flute-playing Avatar (Lord
Krishna) in his Ras Leela, a communion between Purush and Prakriti,
in tune and in step, during this wonderful festival of colours, joy,
Holi with Natural Colours
After learning how to make our own
natural colours for Holi from CLEAN-Delhi, all the students of
our school motivated others to use natural colours and were
My neighbours and relatives were also
inspired. They swore they would use only natural colours on
Holi. Everyone promised to give some material next Holi to
make natural colours for fun and for the safety of everyone
VII E, Delhi
Every student of our school is a part
and parcel of CLEAN-India programme starting from Nursery to
Class XII. The most important difference it has made is the
positive attitude towards the environment. To quote a simple
example, no child in our school plucks a single leaf from the
Another is that we all celebrated
Natural Holi this year. Each and every student learnt and made
a variety of natural Holi colours for his or her family. Not
only that, the packets in which they were packed were made
from old circular papers. All the students made the colours
with enthusiasm and many even made them for their friends and
neighbours. Even I made a lot of colour and convinced my
entire neighbourhood to use them instead of the toxic chemical
Ms. Nita Ganguly, Teacher, Delhi
Holi : The fest of
The fest of colours is here,
open your eyes and ears.
Play Holi with Non – Toxic colours,
And have a safe and fun filled Holi
Use red sandalwood powder
make a red colour,
And haldi for a beautiful sunny yellow,
And Tesu flowers soaked in water
Gives a wonderful orange mellow.
VII , Delhi
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