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Alternative Options To Gulal - Play Holi The Safe Way!

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Play Holi The Eco Friendly Way

Holi, the festival of colours is usually celebrated in the month of phalgun. Phalgun arrives with the promise of warm days and new life - Spring is the season of rejuvenation and rebirth. Holi comes alive with the colours of 'gulal'. These gulal are nowadays made from very harmful Chemical dye. A word of caution to all holi players merits attention here. Most of these dyes like Green colour are obtained from copper sulphate, which can cause Eye Allergy, Puffiness and Temporary blindness.

Purple obtained from chromium iodide - may cause bronchial asthma or other forms of allergy.


Silver obtained from aluminum bromide - a known carcinogenic. Black obtained from lead oxide - may cause renal failures or learning disability. Red obtained from mercury sulphite - may cause skin cancer or Minamata disease (mental retardation, paralysis, impaired vision...)Shiny Colours are a result of powdered glass being added to the colours. Dry gulals are also mixed with asbestos, silica, acids, alkalis, pieces of glass, which not only induce skin disorders like abrasion, irritation, itching but can impair vision, cause respiratory problems and also cancer. So next time when you think of playing with these colours then think twice as you are inviting more troubles not only for yourself but also your near and dear ones.

However, to keep alive the spirit of holi we do have alternatives like the "herbal gulal". THE National Botanical Research Institute (NBRI), Lucknow, has transferred the know-how, on non-exclusive basis, for the preparation of Herbal Gulal to Shri Shyam Bihari of M/s R.B. Herbal Colour and Gulal, Guriya Wala Pech, Hathras. The agreement to this effect was signed on 24 November 2003 and the know-how was transferred on 18 December 2003.

The safest alternative to the toxic chemical dyes is the herbal dye, which has turmeric, and other floral and herbal extracts that act as anti-oxidants and are ultimately beneficial to the skin. Also, these are ecologically friendly and do not harm the environment. Further, this herbal gulal does not cause any irritation, skin allergies, respiratory problems or damage to your vital organs. However, "The price of herbal gulal is exorbitantly high. The said gulal was sold at Rs 200 per kg against readily available gulal which was priced anything between Rs 50 and Rs 80 per kg.

The more adventure seekers can in fact go on to prepare their own colours this can not only help in saving ones pocket but also playing holi in an eco friendly manner. Here are some tips to create your choiceable colours.

  • Mix a spoon of powdered haldi in a cup of flour (atta / besan / maida), talcum powder for dry yellow colour, which is also great for your skin. Haldi powder can also be mixed in water to make a wet colour.

  • Use henna / mehandi powder, separately or mixed with flour (as above).

  • Chopped pieces of Beet root soaked in water for a few hours give a wonderful magenta colour.

  • Put tea or coffee in warm water. Let it cool and use.

  • Put flowers of Semul / Tesu or Palas / Dhak (trees which are common in India and bloom during March) in water and boil. Leave overnight to obtain a saffron colour.

  • Mix lime (chuna which is put in betel leaves) with haldi powder to get a deep red colour.

Wish you all a very happy and ecofriendly holi. Holihai!

Contributing Author: The author, Dr. Sumi Mukhopadhyay, is a Ph.D in Science and at present working as a lecturer in the postgraduate department of Botany in Scottish church college in Kolkata, INDIA. She is a national scholar with outstanding performance both at graduation and post graduation level. For the last five years and still at present she is also actively involved in research ventures especially in the field of Biotechnology in the prestigious Indian Institute of chemical biology, Kolkata. During her tenure as a research fellow she was awarded with many prestigious awards, to name a few are: foreign travel grant from Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, Govt of India, Department of Science & Technology, Govt of India and Indian National Science Academy, Govt of India, to attend and present research work at the Worldleish 3 congress, Italy 2005.She also trained herself in the field of proteomics in, Humboldt University, Berlin, Germany, 2005.During her tenure as a research fellow she has over Twenty publication and presentations with many prestigious awards. [email protected]

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