Sunday, March 8, 2009

Happy Eco-friendly holi

Welcome to Gyaan Connect. Here's wishing you all a very Happy Holi!


Before you begin, we'd like to introduce you to 'G' & 'C' - two lively characters, who form an integral part of our group. We happened to hear a conversationbetween them and thought you'd be interested too.



G:   Wow! Since you’ve reached here, you have already accomplished the 1st step. Congrats!


C:    What are you talking about G?


Reader: Wait, who are you guys? And what are you‘ll talking about? I guess I’ve come to the wrong place.


G:   Oh, no no! You’ve certainly come to the right place. Let me introduce myself.

    I’m G. I’m 24, currently working with a leading advertising agency as a trainee. I believe in being a responsible citizen and abiding by the law.


C:    Ok G, that’s enough. Hi, I’m C. I’m 18 and I’m in the 2nd year of Junior College. I believe in living life for the moment and follow things that concur with my way of life.  


G:   Well, now that we have introduced ourselves, let me answer your question C. By coming here, one has certainly achieved the first step to celebrating an eco-friendly Holi.


C:    Oh please! Are you really planning to celebrate Holi – the festival of joy, colour, fun and frolic in one of those boring ways? That’s just good to hear and read, it’s not meant to be real.


G:   Well C, firstly let me tell you that you are one of the few who hasn’t joined the green brigade yet. All of India is turning green and people like you choose not to come out of their shells in the name of religion and fun.


C:    But Holi is not meant to be green and all. It’s meant to be crazy and colourful. So why should I change?


G:   Firstly, let me clear your misconception. An eco-friendly Holi is neither boring nor any less colourful. It is as much fun and as crazy as ever. It’s a thin line with responsibility on one side and damage on the other. You just have to make your pick.


        Holi is meant to celebrate the arrival of spring and the colours used symbolize the various hues of the spring season. Unfortunately, today Holi doesn’t stand for all things beautiful. It has been brutally commercialized and is yet another source of environmental degradation.


C:    Well, if I am to believe you and it will be as much fun, then what am I supposed to do to make it eco-friendly?


G:   Well, personally, I don’t even know why it is called eco-friendly as more than the environment we are just being friendly to ourselves and our loved ones. So it’s a purely selfish deed – I do it because, more than anything, I don’t want to see myself, my friends and my relatives suffering.


        About how you can begin, I’d say the 2nd Step to celebrating an eco-friendly Holi is switching from toxic gulal to natural colours.


C:    I have been playing with these colours for so many years now and nothing major has ever happened to me. Then why the natural colours?


G:   Let me clarify. In earlier days, colours were made of organic dyes extracted from flowers and vegetables. But since the past few years, things have changed. To make colours ‘pakka’ i.e. to make them last longer, toxic chemicals are mixed in these colours. Take a look at this:



Chemical Used

Health Effects


Copper Sulphate

Eye Allergy, Puffiness,

Temporary Blindness


Chromium Iodide

Bronchial Asthma,

Other Allergies


Aluminum Bromide



Lead Oxide

Renal Failures,

Learning Disability


Mercury Sulphite

Skin Cancer,

Minamata Disease (Disorder of the nervous system) –  Mental Retardation / Paralysis / Impaired Vision


Prussian Blue

Contract Dermatitis

Shiny Colours

Powdered Glass

Skin problems,

Impaired Vision

Dry Gulals

Asbestos, Silica, Acids, Alkalis, Pieces Of Glass

Skin Disorders –Abrasion / Irritation / Itching,

Problems in Vision,

Respiratory Problems,



Well, as you see, a lot of these effects may not be noticed immediately. Respiratory problems, Cancer, bronchial asthma, etc could be observed on a much later date and perhaps, by then, you wouldn’t even doubt the colours. Research shows that lead is the most dangerous of all metals used and can even harm the reproductive system. If a pregnant woman is exposed to lead, it can be carried to the unborn child and damage its nervous system. It can even result in premature birth, low birth weight, miscarriage or abortion. And then year after year, you keep buying these colours supposing it never caused you any harm.


C:    Gosh! Stop freaking me out, you are making me not want to play Holi.


G:   No C, the idea is not to scare you but to make you aware of these blatant facts that could affect your life adversely, if ignored. The plan is to still play Holi but this time making informed decisions.


C:    So how do I begin? I mean with barely 3 days to holi, how can I plan to celebrate it safely?


G:   Since you’ve already come here, all you need is a couple of hours and you’ll be done.   


C:    Now, that sounds interesting. Tell me more.


G:   As I mentioned in step 2, you should first switch to natural colours. That opens up two choices for you – buy them or use homemade ones.


If you choose to buy, then all you need to do is drop into one of these stores and ask for natural colours. In some shops, they are also called organic or herbal gulal (Gulal is a common term used for all dry colours). So, here’s the list:


Name of the Store


Contact No.

Bombay Store



Spencer’s Hypermart

All Outlets


Dhoop Crafts

Khar Road

65819352 / 51

Green Ways

19 Carmichael Road


The Culture Shop

Hiranandani Gardens


Radhika Arora


26121165 / 9821017349


Atria Mall


Hina Chokshi

M G Road, Kandivli West


Navdanya Cafe

Near Laxmi Industrial Estate, Andheri West

9920418027 / 9820844732

Big Bazaar Outlets



Having said that, this list is not exhaustive and you may find natural colours in a store close to your residence too. To locate stores in other parts of India, visit



C:    I’ll have to spend a huge chunk of money to get these colours, isn’t it?


G:   My answer is NO. They surely are priced higher than the toxic colours but they aren’t exorbitantly priced. You would pay between Rs. 30 – 40 for 100 Gms.


C:    Oh, that’s manageable. It’s lesser than what I’d pay to watch a movie in a theatre. And it covers so many risks. It is truly worth it.


G:   Exactly. Infact, you could save some more money by using colours that are easily available or can be prepared easily at home. Here are some ideas:



Ingredients Required



Turmeric (Haldi)

à Mix a spoon of powdered haldi in a cup of atta / besan / maida / talcum powder for dry yellow colour, which is also great for your skin.


à Haldi powder can also be mixed in water to make a wet colour.

Marigold / Tesu Flowers

à Boil the  flowers in water (Let it cool and use) or soak them in water overnight

Pomegranate (Anar) peels

à Soak the peels overnight in water


Spinach / Mint (Pudina) / Tulsi leaves

à Boil the leaves in water (Let it cool and use) or soak them in water overnight



à Slice a beetroot and soak it in water


Henna leaves or powder / Tea

à Boil henna leaves / tea in water (Let it cool and use)


Rakta Chandan

à Dissolve in water and use

Chuna(Used in paan) and turmeric

à Dissolve a little chuna in water. Add some turmeric and watch the water turn deep red.


C:    That’s really nice! Most of these things are easily available in every household. But if this is so easy then why do people still buy those toxic colours?

G:   Remember how you were when you came here? You were also of the opinion that unnatural colours cause no harm and are not a need of the hour. But now you find the idea of buying toxic colours silly. That’s the difference awareness can make in person’s life. It empowers you to take an informed decision, which is a must in today’s age of commercialization.


C:    I guess you are right. But is this all there is to an eco-friendly holi?


G:   Well, switching to natural colors was the 2nd step. The 3rd step is responsible usage of water.


C:    Oh! So now you are telling me to play Holi without water? I’d rather not play Holi than play it without water.


G:   No C, I’m not asking you to avoid water completely. I also understand the fun and enjoyment associated with throwing water and water balloons on each other. But, then again, we can’t choose to ignore the fact that day after day, there are many dying out of thirst – not having a single drop of water to drink. More than one in six people worldwide – 1.1 billion – don’t have access to 20-50 litres of safe freshwater daily, the minimum range suggested by the UN to ensure each person’s basic needs for drinking, cooking and cleaning. So the least we can do is make sure our celebrations are not insensitive.


C:    So how do you suggest we use water responsibly?


G:   Having done some basic research, I’d say ‘For a family of 4, stick to 2 buckets – NO MORE’


C:    I’m not totally happy with it but I guess I could try. Well, if it does help someone somewhere and adds a smile to someone’s face, then I’m sure I can make a conscious effort to try and stick to it. After all, that’s what celebrations are all about, isn’t it?


G:   Exactly! It’s high time we stopped being apathetic towards ourselves and people around us. If a couple of convenient changes can make such a huge difference in the lives of so many, then any reason, small or big, can’t justify the lack of it. For a change, let’s all wake up and say ‘WE CARE’. Let’s start the change and lead the path. Together, let’s make a difference!


C:    I’m sure I’m going to celebrate an eco-friendly holi. Do drop in a comment and let us know how you plan to celebrate your holi.




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