The festive vibes – a plethora of colors and the holy bonfire! Love, joy, and enthusiasm – all packed in a punch of colors. But what if the color is toxic? The festival of colors is celebrated across the country with vibrant colors and is known by different names like Lathmar Holi, Dhulandi, Rangpanchami, Basant Utsav, and Mohalla Hola.

  • It marks the beginning of spring and is the harbinger of the harvest season.
  • The festival is mentioned in the ancient Indian scriptures like Nada Purana and Bhavisya Purana and several stories surrounding the same. 
  • The stories are illustrated in old paintings and murals of ancient India. 
  • The festival has been associated with Lord Krishna and his avatars.

The festival is celebrated in colors. People throw colors on each other and a sacred bonfire is made from logs, leaves, twigs, and other natural combustible materials. The god of fire, Agnidev is worshipped with special offerings and the ash of the bonfire is considered to be sacred. Smearing it on the forehead is believed to be auspicious.

Varieties of colours
Various colours in pots

With the advancing times, the ways of celebrating the festival have changed. Several environmental concerns have taken the centre stage and the festival has begun to take a toll on the environment.

The colorful concerns:

The chemical-based colors that we purchase every year for the festival are toxic to both – humans and the environment. Human health is adversely affected by toxic chemicals while the plastic-packed colors, especially the small plastic balloons take a toll on the environment too hence adding more to the problems of waste management. 

  • The skin, eyes, and hair aside, these colors are harmful enough to damage the internal organs. 
  • Wood is a fast-depleting resource that is being used extensively for the ritual of Holika Dahan every year resulting in the wastage of precious fuel and polluting the environment.
  • Certain colors can be carcinogenic, especially the ones prepared from artificial dyes.
  • Recent research indicates the presence of lead oxide in dark colors, the highest amount being in black, exposure to lead oxide may cause renal failure. Likewise, the color red contains high amounts of mercury sulfide which could cause skin cancer.
  • Another concern associated with the festival is the immense water wastage. Buckets of water are used up in making wet colors and playing with them, water shortage is increasing at an alarming rate in India, and the festival adding more to the wastage! Wet colors are difficult to remove from the skin and cause more harm.

The alternatives:

The use of natural colors is an alternative to toxic colors. But where do we get the natural colors from? Well, they can be made easily at home itself!

Herbal Holi colours
Herbal Holi colours from various sources

You must have heard of natural indicators like turmeric. It contains curcumin that remains yellow in a neutral solution and turns red in a basic one. How about using such indicators as colors?

  • Marigold flower petals can also be used as an alternative to yellow color.
  • The beetroot can be used to prepare wet colors. Simply boiling a few beetroot pieces and leaving them overnight will give a rich magenta color.
  • Black color can be extracted from black grapes! Boiling water, amla, and black grapes together followed by cooling shall provide a dark black color.
  • Spinach, neem, and mint when boiled and left overnight produce a rich green hue. Henna powder mixed with wheat flour also works as a natural green color.
  • The red color shall be obtained by grinding the red hibiscus while orange or saffron shall be extracted from the tesu flowers.
  • To add bulk to the natural colors, wheat or gram flour shall be mixed with the same.
  • Flower petals can also be substituted with colors – the idea of a fragrance-full festival!
  • The wood in a bonfire can be easily replaced with small branches and twigs for a small symbolic fire and Holika Dahan would be more effective if celebrated collectively.
  • The balloons and plastic bags should be discarded to avoid unnecessary plastic waste.

Homemade colors are therefore preferable when it comes to ecologically celebrating Holi. These colors are easy to remove and make use of less water. Hence using natural colors is an efficient way to celebrate Holi. Sharing these colors shall add more benevolence to the colorful festival! 

Apart from this, the irrelevant products i.e. petrol or mud should be discarded. Eco-friendly compostable tableware is also suggested because Holi is incomplete without a family get-together.

With environmental concerns taking the centre stage with the deteriorating climatic conditions, each individual must take up the responsibility to tackle pollution in every possible way. It’s high time that we implement small initiatives at grassroots levels to tackle climate change. It will make room for a sustainable future! Let us embrace the colors consciously this Holi.

Tags: festivals


  1. Prashanna

    Festival of colours and happiness

  2. Amarjeet Verma

    Informative content

  3. Aditya Jaiswal

    Very well written about the consequences of chemically harmful colours and extraction of natural colours.

  4. Utsab

    Well researched 👍

  5. Anik Karmakar

    Trying the alternatives this Holi!
    Well written


    Happy holi…

  7. Tripti Agarwal

    Happy Holi

  8. Abhishek Karn


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