Holi is possibly the only Indian celebration with its own tagline. Bura na maano, Holi hai! (Don't be insulted, It's Holi after all!) encapsulates the spirit of the festival. The origins of the festival, which celebrates the triumph of good over evil, may be traced back to Hindu mythology, namely the defeat of the demon Hiranyakashipu and his sister Holika. The day Lord Kama fired five arrows is also celebrated, so there's no reason not to join in the fun - whether you're inspired by the colours, the season, good old-fashioned love or for the love of food.
This culturally significant event is inevitably accompanied by a long-standing tradition of playing both wet and dry colours using Pichkaris, water-filled balloons Holika Dahan either in person or community. Though the manner in which Holi is celebrated has evolved in a variety of ways, the festival has been taking a toll on the environment for a long time now.
Here are some suggestions for how to enjoy the festivities while also being environmentally conscious.
1). Make your own colours at home- Just like we make Gujiya, Sevayee, Mathree and Semi, we can even make our own dry colours at home, rather than purchasing them from the market. This is being suggested because- one they are made using harmful chemicals, secondly, they come wrapped in plastic packaging that ends up going into our overflowing landfills or oceans. The worrisome fact is that plastic is non-biodegradable in nature, as a result, it ends up remaining on the planet for more than 500 years, and its decomposition only adds to the toxicity!
Making colour is handy and easy!
Credits: My Flower Tree
Dry flowers or leaves, turmeric, besan, chandan, and henna can be used to make Holi colours. To achieve the classic red colour, collect any red flower, such as hibiscus blooms. Simply grind the flowers and combine them with some flour to make a powder. Your customary red Holi colour is now ready to use.
For Orange or Saffron colour, soak Tesu flowers overnight in water or boil them, once you get the lovely yellow-orange colour, mix it with some flour.
For green colour, mix equal quantities of henna powder and flour, while for Pink colour, mix and grind beetroot with flour.
A quick tip: To make the colour in bulk, use either wheat or gram flour. It is oh so therapeutic for the skin!
2). Ditch water balloons and Pichkaris and play Dry Holi with Flowers-Water balloons are made of rubber and plastic, while Pichkaris are simply made of plastic alone. India’s landfills are already burdened with overflowing garbage. This Holi, we can easily switch to eco-friendly alternatives like playing Dry Holi with flowers.
3). Follow the Zero-Waste rule- If you are playing Holi with flowers, utilise that flower waste for the purpose of composting instead of dumping it into the bin directly, Flowers are decomposed into manure and helps to improve the texture and fertility of the soil.
4). Decorate Your House with Upcycled Products- Every Holi celebration entails the task of adorning and decorating our homes and nearby areas. This year, let's say goodbye to the usual party décor, which is primarily composed of plastics. Instead, try upcycling, which is simply a creative technique of reducing trash by using discarded goods or materials to create new products.
For example- Make colourful wall or garden hangings using newspapers, magazines, old books and cardboard or use make use of old CDs and convert them into colourful coasters. Just get a stack of old CDs and paint your way. Also, we can use old piece of cloth over the CDs or any other daily discards which suits the intended design.
Credits: Crafts by Amanda
5). Holika Dehan- Traditionally, communities celebrated this occasion by gathering dead wood from each house. The pyre was covered with mustard seeds and cow dung, that carry air-cleansing properties. Today, the celebration has become symbolic and reduced to a matter of convenience. The pyre is burnt using healthy and green trees, along with plastics and other products of modernity. This blatant alteration of the ritual is causing air pollution and releasing toxic gases. Our traditions are grounded in science and a love of nature. Let's revisit them.
Written by Social Work Intern Tanya Omar, with inputs from Environment Intern Jasmine Dhingra