Go for herbal colours!

More and more people now want to enjoy Holi safely by using specially prepared herbal colours that are easily available in the market.

india Updated: Mar 14, 2006 18:52 IST

There was a time in the past when Holi, the festival of colours and merriment, used to be celebrated with close relatives, friends and all near and dear ones, using specially prepared colours--Gulal and Abeer.

But over the years the grace of this festival has been affected due to the usage of harmful colours that leave the skin with burning sensation and rashes for a long duration. And the children resorting to throwing water and colour-filled balloons on people on the street and in busy markets.

As awareness about the ill effects of the artificial colours on skin and the environment is growing, more and more people now want to enjoy the festival safely. The markets are now are flooded with "Herbal colours" prepared on the basis of ancient methodologies of deriving harmless dyes from forest produce as is being done in Bhopal's Forest Produce Research Institute (MFC PARC).

"In the herbal colours that we produce here with the help of tribals in the belt, we use vegetables like spinach, beet-root and seasonal flower extracts as well as other natural catalysts and colour fixing agents like lemon juice, tartaric acids to stabilize the colours. All these items are easily acquired off the stalls in the market," said D. D Sharma, the Research Officer at MFC.

In olden times, the Royals took the advice of traditional medicine men that concocted extracts of the season's fruits, flowers, roots, leaves and seeds.

Besides many voluntary organisations have been trying to stop the artificial colour market.

"Most of these (artificial) colours have metals such as mercury sulphate in the red colour, which can cause skin cancer. Similarly, using copper sulphate, chromium, iodides and bromides, which are toxic, makes greens. Even if, they penetrate the skin, they can have harmful effects, despite the fact that they are applied only externally on the body," said Ridhima Sud, an environmental scientist, who works in Development Alternatives, a non-governmental organisation.

Sud also added that the CLEAN (Community Led Environmental Action Network) also trains people to make the herbal colours at home, using turmeric, sandalwood, Bengal gram powder, sandalwood powder, beet root extracts and the seasonal flowers.

These products come at affordable prices.

Meanwhile, in Delhi, shops are replete with colours of both varieties. Shopkeepers say people are clearly by choosing the safer organic ones over the heavy metal-based industrial dyes.

Mala, a customer said that she was glad about the new option of colours.

"Actually, we prefer herbal colours because they are skin-friendly, friendly for all people around. Plus, we don't even know what all material the chemical colours are made from. They are bad while the herbal colours are good for the skin. One plays with friends and family and one would rather have fun with safe colours than brave repercussions later on," said Mala.

Moreover, Medical practitioners warn that small bits of mica are reported to have been used to give the artificial colour, 'Gulal', a shine. This powder, when smeared on the face, might get into the eyes and affect the cornea leading to abrasions and loss of sight.

First Published: Mar 14, 2006 12:07 IST