Spring is the season of flowers when the rusty, dry leaves of winter make way for new fresh leaves and flowers. Flowers are of multicolours, while leaves are green. Colours from flowers, leaves, fruits, and roots are natural and beneficial for healthy skin. Therefore, in the spring season, we celebrate Holi by smearing ourselves with colours extracted from nature.
Sadly, nowadays, in Holi, artificial colours have mostly replaced the use of traditional natural colours, also called gulal. Artificial colours are cheap, bright, lasting, and widely available in stores. However, they are not as good for the skin as their natural counterparts. Artificial colours are severely harmful to individuals who have skin diseases, skin allergy, rashes, insect bites, itchy skin. Thus, many people refrain from participating in playing Holi. Health-conscious people have now switched over to natural colours, which are expensive and rarely available.
In today’s world, flowers are widely available, so are leaves, roots and fruits that we eat. So, we can make colours at home. Also, the availability of suitable powder bases in our kitchens makes our task more manageable. Let us see what colours we can make at home from inexpensive and readily available natural ingredients.
Hibiscus, palash, and shimul are red-coloured flowers, and these can be used for red colours. For powdered colours, the petals of these flowers can be sun-dried and powdered finely to a paste. It can be added to a powdered base like rice flour, corn-starch, or even talcum powder for a cheaper alternative. The brightness of the powder depends on the number of dried flowers added to the powder base. The powdered may be sun-dried again if they are a bit sticky. For wet colour, boiling pomegranate peels in water will produce bright red coloured water.
One of the best and cheapest sources of yellow colour is turmeric. Dried turmeric powered is readily available in our kitchen and mixing besan with it will produce an excellent amber-coloured powder. If using white powder, a better method is to boil turmeric in water and mix it with the powder. It gives a bright yellow colour to rice flour, corn-starch or talcum powder. If available, cornflour or makai can be a good option as a powder base as it is yellow. Boiling turmeric in water will produce a wet yellow colour.
Green leafy vegetables are readily available in our homes. Green leafy vegetables like coriander or spinach are widely available during spring. Both can be ground into a paste, which itself is a delicious chutney. When mixed with any white powder base like rice flour, corn-starch or talcum powder, the paste will give a soothing green colour. For wet colours, henna mixed with water gives bright olive-green colour. Henna is not harmful to the skin, but it leaves a reddish-orange stain in the skin that takes some days to wash off.
Blue rarely occurs in nature. But in India, blue-coloured butterfly pea or aparajita flower is widely available. The butterfly pea flower’s petals can be dried, made into a paste, and mixed with powder to form a blue-coloured powder. Butterfly pea plant boiled in water gives a brilliant blue colour. It can also be drunk as it has impressive health benefits.
Beetroot is a good source of natural colour used widely to colour cakes, cookies, and many food items. When grated beetroot is added to water and rinsed well, it gives a very bright magenta colour. For powdered colour, beetroot water may be mixed with white powder. It makes a lovely pink powder. The brightness of the colour depends on the amount of beetroot in the powder.
These are the most common and widely used natural colours that we can easily make at home with little effort and is affordable. Though they are not as cheap as artificial colours, they take care of our skin and body, thus being cosmetic. Many social and cultural organizations have started manufacturing natural colours and distribute them during Holi. Therefore, in years to come, we are looking forward to seeing a drop in prices and wide acceptance of natural gulal for playing Holi.
Written By – Himadri Paul