Holi Festival (10thMarch)
Holi festival has an ancient origin and celebrates the triumph of 'good' over 'bad'. The colorful festival bridges the social gap and renews sweet relationships. Numerous legends & stories associated with Holi celebration makes the festival more exuberant and vivid. Originally, only natural and herbal colors were used for Holi. The powder was known as 'gulal', the natural colored talc as 'abir' and colored water as 'rang'. Till the 1950s, families used to prepare their own colours from the dried flowers in the form of powders ‘gulal’ and boiled them to get concentrated, deep wet colours. Red, green and pink from flowers like palash (Flame of the forest), marigold, hibiscus, rose and other organic derivatives. These colours were good for the skin and did not harm the human body and had therapeutic value. The colours used in holi festival represent some values / emotions in our life like ….
The green colour represents compassion, purity and harmony. It increases our sensitivity and has a calming and healing effect, in its natural and herbal form.
Magenta Blue: -
Magenta is the color of change, of letting go. It asks us to break old attitudes and habits, which are not good for us, to steer clear of obsessions and to forget what has passed away. Blue enforces peace and faith. It is the color of new beginnings and creative expression.
Red is the color of festivity, vibrancy, energy and love.
Saffron and orange colors are often associated with festivity, happiness, joyousness and optimism.
Yellow denotes energy, intellect and awakening of new blooms in the spring season. The sunny yellow gulal looks beautiful on black and blue faces and presents quite a contrast to the multi-hued faces.
Traditional way to celebrate the holi:
There is also a specific way in which Holika Dahan takes place. A log of wood is kept in a prominent public place on the Vasant Panchami day, almost 40 days before the Holi Festival. People go on throwing twigs, dried leaves, branches of trees left through the winter besides any other combustible material they can spare, on to that log which gradually grows into a sizable heap. On the day of Holika Dahan an effigy of Holika with child Prahlad in her lap is kept on the logs. Usually, Holika's effigy is made of combustible materials, whereas, Prahlad's effigy is made of non-combustible one. On the night of Phalguna Purnima, it is set alight amidst the chanting of Rakshoghna Mantras of the Rig Veda (4.4.1-15; 10.87.1-25 and so on) to ward off all evil spirits. Next morning the ashes from the bonfire are collected as prasad and smeared on the limbs of the body.
The legend from which the tradition of playing colours started is full of colours in itself. The story goes that the very colourful Indian god, Lord Krishna was jealous of his soul mate Radha's fair complexion, since he himself was very dark. Naughty young Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda about this injustice of nature. To placate the child, doting mother asked Krishna to apply colour on Radha's face and change her complexion according to his choice. Playful and mischievous Krishna appreciated the idea and implemented it. The game of applying colours thus gained so much popularity that it became a tradition and later it turned out to be a full-fledged festival.
The Holi Bonfire: -
The burning of fuel wood to create the bonfire for Holika Dahan presents another serious environmental problem. According to a news article, studies done in the State reveal that each bonfire uses around 100 kg of wood, and considering that approximately 30,000 bonfires are lit in the state just for one season, this leads to a wastage of a staggering amount of wood.
For certain communities like Fishermen community Holi is a very important festival which is celebrated for about 5 days. During this each group burns one tree (Mangrove species or Palm Species) for Holika Dhahan each day. All these traditions require a thought for celebration in a way not to harm environment.
Ideally, the joyous festival of Holi is meant to celebrate the arrival of spring while the colors used in Holi are to reflect of the various hues of spring season. But unfortunately, in modern times Holi does not stand for all things beautiful. Like various other festivals, Holi too has become ruthlessly commercialized, boisterous and yet another source of environmental degradation.
Environmental impacts associated with the holi festival are listed below.
- Burning of wood and other combustible material creates air pollution problems.
- Cutting of trees leads to loss of biodiversity.
- Colours produced from chemicals are toxic and can result in anything from skin allergies to cancer, eye irritation, dermatitis respiratory problems to blindness... and much more.
- They do not wash away easily, get mixed in drains and sewage systems and pollute water bodies and the soil.
Such a colourful Holi was soon overtaken by commercialisation, which started providing exotic colours, but in a highly dangerous form. Toxic chemicals are being used to get the desired colours. They do not wash away easily, get mixed in drains and sewage systems and pollute water bodies and the soil. The festival, which used to be a healthy revelry of mankind is no longer an exuberant, healthy event. Following are some of example of chemical colours, their composition & effect on health and Environment.
Composition of a Few Holi Colours:
||Renal Failure, Learning disability
||Eye Allergy, Temporary blindness
||Bronchial asthma, Allergies
||Skin cancer, Minamata disease (mental retardation, paralysis, impaired vision...)
Celebrate Holi / Rangapanchami in an Eco-friendly manner:
To avoid environmental deterioration due to Holi / Rangapanchami some things should be taken into account while celebrating it.
- Do not cut green trees to burn in fire/ Holi.
- Collect dead wood and leaves for burning
- Bonfire would be of small in size.
- Organize one symbolic community fire, rather than several smaller bonfires across the city as a way to reduce pollution and deforestation.
- Use combustible waste material rather than wood like coconut coir, saw dust, or agricultural waste like dry grass, wheat straw etc.
- Celebrate holi as a Dry Holi to avoid wastage of water.
- To make aware people about environmental impacts of celebrating holi by traditional way and encourage people to celebrate it in an Eco friendly manner.
- Avoid use of chemically produced colour powders and pastes to prevent health hazard & environmental degradation.
- The safest alternative is the herbal dye.
- These dyes have turmeric and other floral and herbal extracts that act as anti-oxidants and are ultimately beneficial to the skin.
- Also, these are eco-friendly and do not harm the environment.
- Further, this herbal colour does not cause any irritation, skin allergies, respiratory problems or damage to your vital organs.
- When these colours are mixed with the soil and water they do not add toxicity to them, therefore it doesn’t harm the myriad life forms that live in the soil and water.
- By this we can bring back in large quantities the diverse plants and trees that give us these colours.
- In the Holi fire, all kinds of material other than the organic ones and those that cause harm, such as plastics, tyre tubes should be avoided as it gives rise to air pollution.
- To teach children in schools preparation of their own Holi colors from natural and safe ingredients like beetroot, rose petals, flowers, spinach and turmeric.
By Playing Holi the Vedic Way by using safe, natural colors, we not only save our skins but also help save our environment and conserve our biodiversity.
Make your herbal colours by your own
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 Beetroot 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 with haldi powder to get a deep red colour
Once the awareness is created, the citizens will join in wholeheartedly to create a movement, which will act as a soothing balm on the wounds that we human beings have inflicted on Mother Nature
"Holi Ke Rang, herbal colour ke Sang….." Happy Holi… !!!!