Get doused in colour, high on bhaang, and dance to the tunes of Balam Pichkaari. But in the midst of all the merriment during Holi, don’t forget to spare a thought for the environment.
Dozens of studies point to the ecological hazards of Holi including air pollution and water contamination. No festival should have to be associated with something like that. So this year, take it upon yourself to celebrate Holi more responsibly and get your friends and family to follow these tips too.
Avoid The Bonfire
Holi marks the arrival of spring—the harvest season. It also marks the triumph of good over evil (remember the story of the demoness Holika; how Vishnu set her on fire to save his disciple Prahlad?) So the night before Holi, big pyres are burnt in many parts of India, especially North India, to symbolise the burning down of evil. This obviously leads to high levels of smoke, spiking up the carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide in the air. Some communities also burst fireworks, further polluting the air. If you want to do your bit for a greener celebration, try to avoid the bonfire or do it on a much smaller scale, only in a symbolic way.
Play A Dry Holi
The main day of Holi is called rangpanchami—the festival of colours—not water. However, reports indicate that an average of 30 litres of water is used up per person during Holi. People continue to use coloured water, make water puddles, and fill up their pichkaaris (water guns) and balloons with water. In a country that faces serious scarcity of water, do we need this kind of wastage? It’s not a bad idea to do an entirely water-free Holi. Mumbai-based Roshni Bhatnagar, 24, tells us about her dry Holi celebration, “We as a family don’t believe in wasting buckets and buckets of water. Every year, we host a dry Holi party in our colony; it’s all about natural colours, thandai and gujiya!”
Some people also do ’tilak Holi’; they use only gulal (no water) and make a tilak mark on the forehead as a symbolic tradition. Still others celebrate Holi only with flowers.
Say No To Water Balloons & Plastic Bags
In India, at least five lakh people play Holi each year. Many of them fill balloons and plastic bags with coloured or murky water and toss it on others as a playful gesture. These bags and balloons are often discarded carelessly, messing up the streets and clogging the sewage pipes. Let’s not forget that they can cause serious injuries! This time around, limit your Holi props to gulal and flowers.
Make Your Own Chemical-Free Gulal
Traditionally, Holi was played with vegetable colours and natural dyes such as turmeric and floral pigments. The gulal you get at your local store these days is full of toxic chemicals that cause water contamination and also mess up your skin! Go ahead, make your own natural gulal, and trust us when we say it’s child’s play. All you need is cornstarch or arrowroot power, vegetable dye, and water. Here’s a quick tutorial.
Holi, or any other festivity for that matter, can be enjoyed more consciously and considerately. We hope you have a happy, safe Holi this year.
Image Credit: Little Passports