Holi is here and the excitement is building up! I’ve begun wondering which old t-shirt is going to face the axe on March 8th! I’m a Rang Panchami party pooper. I don’t allow friends to put any colours on my face. Ever since a close friend of mine got an allergic reaction after Holi, I’ve been reluctant to participate in the annual Indian face-painting fest. And later, I discovered, it was with good reason.
The colours that one buys off the road-side vendors on Holi,(and yes, the best of us do that when we have run out of Gulal at the last minute) are full of harmful chemicals.
Here’s a short list of ingredients that make up the colours that are or can be harmful for us.
- The red gulal is the most popular one. It often contains mercury sulphite – a proven carcinogen that can also cause Minamata (a neurological syndrome which is a result of mercury poisoning.)
- The green is next. The malachite green colour compound is derived from copper sulphate which causes eye allergies and can also lead to temporary blindness. Paediatricians often remark that skin and eye allergies rise in number after the festival of Holi.
- The yellow colour powder among all the regular Holi colours has the highest lead content.
- The Prussian blue chemical from which the blue colour powder is derived has been known to cause contact dermatitis.
- The purple or dark pink gulal may contain chromium iodide which can irritate the lungs and may also lead to asthama.
Since the Holi colour market is unorganized, a lot of cheaply available industrial dyes are used to produce these colours making them harmful for humans in their immediate consequences as also in the long term illnesses they may trigger. These colours usually use silica, mica and other chemicals as a base. Furthermore, the pollution caused by these colours is potent in terms of quantity and level of toxicity to a lot of surface and ground water sources. These colours are also much harder to wash off so we end up using more water to scrub them off.
Here’s how you can go natural and organic and have a chemical free Holi-day with a lot of cheer!
Make colours at home:
- Turmeric and chickpea flour mix for yellow. Proportion of turmeric to besan ideally should be 1:2. One spoon of haldi for two spoons of besan. This is also an excellent face pack when mixed with water.
- Use homemade sindoor as a red gulal. It will be saffron when dry. (Homemade kumkum recipe – Mix the lime powder used on betel nut leaves with a bit of turmeric and a tiny amount of water.) Or dry hibiscus flowers for a few days before using that powder as a deep red gulal.
- For green – henna or dried gulmohar tree leaves are an easy solution. Henna might leave a light orange tinge if it gets wet while on your skin and is not taken off immediately.
- For blue, dry jacaranda flowers and then powder them.
If you do not have the time to go through the lengthy process of making these colours at home, NaturalMantra.com offers a variety of non-toxic natural Holi colours delivered at your doorstep. Check out the different safe, non-toxic, 100% natural colours that ensure protection of your health and that of the environment.
For more information, and to view details and more information on the toxic chemicals click here. Holi Colours: A bleak picture (Courtesy: http://e-coexist.com/products/holi/holi_2010/rang-dulaar-natural-holi-colours-2010)