Monday, 5 March 2012

Tips for Safe Holi

Holi and the chemicals 

Source: Toxics Link Fact Sheet, Date: March , 2009 (


Holi Holi which marks the harvest of Rabi crop and the arrival of springwas traditionally celebrated using natural coloured extracts from seasonal herbs. However, gradually these herbs were replaced by synthetic dyes ,some of which are toxic.This is because of the presence of mica,acids,alkalis, pieces of glass etc that are hazardous to huma Apart from inducing skin irritation and abrasion and these chemicals can go as far as impairing vision, causing cancer and respiratory problems.

Broadly there are three categories of colours available in the market:paste,dry powder and wet colours.All these could be hazardous.The hazard increases when these are mixed with oil .Oil helps the rogue chemicals to seep into the skin easily.

Holi pastes contain harmful chemicals such as Lead oxide (common in black colour), copper sulphate (found in green colour), aluminium bromide (in silver colour), prussian blue ( blue colour) and mercury sulphite ( a major component in red colour).These can cause renal failure, eye allergy, puffiness, temporary blindness, cancer etc.

Dry colours or gulaals have two components -a toxic colourant and a base which could be either asbestos or silica. Both these, especially asbestos, can cause health hazards even if exposure is limited.Gulaal has heavy metals called systemic toxins that can get deposited on kidneys, liver and bones .Presence of lead in Holi colours can lead to learning disorder,chromium to bronchial ailments,cadmium to fragile bones, nickel to dermatitis , mercury to nervous system disorder etc.

The wet colours have mostly gentian violet as a colour concentrate that can cause skin discolouration, dermatitis,irritation of mucous membrane etc.

How to make Natural Colours?

Dry Colour:
Use mehendi / henna powder, separately or mix with equal quantity of any suitable flour to attain a lovely green shade. 

Make 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) will it 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? 

Other methods
Dry and finely powder the leaves of Gulmohur (Delonix regia) tree for a green colour. 
Crush the tender leaves of the Wheat plant to obtain a natural safe green Holi colour.

Wet colour:
  • Mix two teaspoons of mehendi in one litre of water. Stir well.
  • Green colour can also be obtained by mixing a fine paste of leaves like spinach / palak, coriander / dhaniya, mint / pudina, tomato leaves, etc. in water.
 Dry colour: 
Mix two teaspoons of haldi / Turmeric powder with double 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, arra rot (ground nut) powder, fuller's earth (multani mitti) and even talcum powder. 

Another Method

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. 

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

Wet Colour:

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

Dry Colour:

  • Red Sandal Wood Powder / Raktachandan / Lalchandan (Pterocarpus santalinus) has a beautiful red colour, is extremely beneficial for the skin and is used in face packs, etc. This can be used instead of Red Gulal.
  • Dry red hibiscus flowers in shade and powder to make a lovely red colour. To increase the bulk add any flour to it
  • Sinduria, called Annato in English has a water chestnut shaped fruit which contains lovely brick colour red seeds. These yield both dry and wet colours.
Wet colour
  • Put 2 teaspoons of Red Sandal wood powder in a litre of water and boil. Dilute and use.
  • Peels of Red Pomegranate boiled in water give red.
  • 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/ turmeric powder and a few drops of water. Use only after diluting with 10 litres of water.

Extracting red from flower petals

  • 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.
  • Red hibiscus flowers soaked in water overnight give a red which also has medicinal value.
  • The Palita Madar / Pangri / Indian Coral tree/ (Erythrina indica), found commonly in coastal regions, has large red flowers. Soak the flowers in water overnight.
  • Boil wood of Madder Tree in water for a deep red.
  • 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.

Dry Colour

  • The Jacaranda flowers can be dried in the shade and ground to obtain a beautiful blue powder. The flowers bloom in summers.
  • The blue Hibiscus which is found in Kerala can be dried and powdered just like the red hibiscus
Wet Colour

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. 

Wet Colour

  • Slice or grate one Beet root. Soak in 1 litre of water for a wonderful magenta. Boil or leave overnight for a deeper shade. Dilute.
  • 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.
  • Soak Kachnar (Bauhinia variegata) flowers (pink variety) in water overnight, or boil for a pinkish colour.
Wet Colour

  • 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, and the flowers also have a lot of medicinal properties. Tesu blooms during month of March.
  • Boil flower petals of red variety of Semul / Silk Cotton (Bombax ceiba ) in water.
  • 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 coloured orange.
  • Mix a pinch of Sandalwood powder from Ujjain (also used in our temples) in one litre of water for an instant, beautiful and fragrant saffron colour.
  • 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.

Celebrating a Safe and Eco-friendly Holi:


Judicious Use Of Water: 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. Thus recommend to play dry Holi with Gulal only.This will also save the risk of falling ill.

Avoid synthetic colours: Prefer preparing eco-friendly natural colours at home; haldi concoction for yellow, beetroot concoction for red, and methi or neem concoction for green. In any case, organic colors are now easily available in the market.

Smart use of Bonfire: Lighting of wooden pallets for the bonfire is a serious environmental issue. Would request you to lit one symbolic community bonfire, rather than burning individual bonfires across your locality as a way to reduce wood consumption. The other way is to lit bonfires by using waste material rather than wood.

Protect your eyes from attacks: Eyes are extremely vulnerable on Holi because of the use of harmful chemicals in colours these days. The chemicals can badly infect your eyes due to the toxic chemicals mixed with colours and can even cause blindness.

Play Safe: Don’t  play with someone if he/she is not willing to play and do not let others to be rude with you. The best option would be to play with natural colours.

Preparations before Holi Celebration:

Make sure that you apply ample quantity of cream on your face before and after playing with colours. Cover up the body to the maximum with synthetic garments so that they do not  soak much water.

Oil your hair well, it will make it easy for you to get rid of the colour stuck in the hairs. Also it will limit the effect of chemicals to hairs.

Keep your lips tightly locked so that colours do not enter your mouth. Also protect your face from any possible attack on face.

Try to avoid going outside of your premises in the peak hours of the festival. This way you can prevent yourself from being engaged with rough friends.

During travel, keep the window of your car tightly closed, even if you don’t have an AC car. Stay at a safe distance from the mob celebrating holi.

Take a bath with luke warm water after the Holi celebration is over. Avoid frequent washing of face and regular baths during the Holi celebration. It will ruin your skin with dryness.

Do not run and jump on wet floors as you may slip and pose the danger of bone fracture.

Avoid drinking of bhang and alcohol during festival. Do not drive when you are high on alcohol.

If you are asthmatic, take preventive doses in advance and keep S.O.S. inhalers [e.g. Astheline] handy. For such people, it is best to avoid playing Holi, if possible.

Keep anti-oxidants and other anti-allergic medicines ready for any accident or if you encounter any skin problem.


  1. Well..good info.
    However I believe that govt and media is not the one who will appreciate your idea since they opposed mass natural holi festive conduct by Yog vedanta samiti across India. See to know aout yog vedanta samiti

  2. Your post is really good. Useful content. Very helpful to me.
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  3. Here are some Do’s and don’ts for staying safe this Holi. After all, it’s always better to be safe than sorry…

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  6. wow very nice..posttt

  7. This is not the biggest festival in India, but it is the most colorful and probably the most popular alien. Many people have "Holi Experience in India" on their lists and for good reason. How often can adults throw colored powder and spray them with water guns filled with colored water? And ... for those who are more courageous than me ... there is also Bhang Lassi.

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