As Holi nears, here is a look at some home-grown brands that offer organic, skin-safe colours to make your celebrations guilt-free
Manya Cherabuddi is gathering marigold, hibiscus and other flowers and boiling them to extract the pigments. “This is how Holi was traditionally celebrated; but somewhere along the line, it was replaced by mass-produced synthetic colours,” says the 28-year-old natural colour artist based in Hyderabad.
Manya who has been conducting workshops on natural colours for the past two years, is among the growing tribe of people choosing to go eco-friendly for the popular festival of colours. Over the past few years home-grown brands have also come up with ways to help people celebrate Holi, guilt-free.
Avani, a Kumaon-based cooperative founded in 2012, produces an organic range of Holi colours in five shades. “The orange shade is from the flame of the forest, blue from Himalayan indigo, yellow from turmeric, green a combination of turmeric and indigo and lac from a resinous secretion from the lac insects,” explains Rashmi Bharti, co-founder of Avani.
They have a model where local farmers convert wastelands to produce raw materials. “We work with 600 farmers and have around 150 acres of land to grow our raw materials. The pigments are also used to dye clothes and create organic crayons.”
The organisation uses rice flour as the base and the organic colours are mixed with it. “Dyes and detergents are the major cause of pollution of our water bodies, soil and ocean. When we choose not to use them, we are contributing less to the pollution. Then we oblige the chemical manufacturers to shift to making nature-friendly products,” says Rashmi.
Natural colours not only require less water to wash off but the runoff also will not pollute groundwater.
Many organisations also use recycled flowers to make pigments. Visakhapatnam-based GreenWaves Environmental Solutions collects floral waste from temples to make their organic Holi colours, with the help of a small team of women.
This year the startup, which specialises in e-waste recycling and eco-friendly products, is offering Holi colours in yellow, green, pinkish-red and purple for the first time. “The yellow is made from marigold and turmeric that are collected from seven temples across Visakhapatnam. Our collection drive started in the last week of February. On an average, we collect nearly a ton of temple floral waste every month,” says Potluri Anil Chowdary, managing director of GreenWaves Environmental Solutions.
The green is from neem and tulsi leaves, pinkish-red from rose petals and beetroot is used to make the purple Holi colour. “A major part of the production time goes into drying the floral waste since most flowers are collected in a wet or semi-wet condition. Once dry, it takes a day to complete the process of turning it into Holi colours. Every element in the colours is natural; you can even smell the fragrance of natural product in the colours,” says Chowdary.
For the past four years, Bengaluru-based NGO, Craftizen Foundation, has been selling skin-friendly Holi colours labelled Petalists made from discarded flowers collected from temples and marriage halls. “The production is done by 200 people with intellectual disabilities from four organisations — NIMHANS, Grameena Abhyudaya Seva Samste (GASS), Orione Seva and Richmond Fellowship Society, in the city. We provide the training and also market their products,” explains Mayura Balasubramaniam, founder of Craftizen.
It takes around four kilograms of flowers to make a kilogram of the Holi colour. “Though they sold 3,000 kilograms last year, this year we have only made 1,700 kilograms. With the pandemic, we were unsure of the market, but the sales have been good so far” Mayura explains.
Phool.co has a similar story. The company launched skin-friendly organic Holi colours last year with 5,000 packets. “We were sold out in a week. So we increased our production by five times this year, but still, we ran out of our products in three weeks. We had four colours on offer — pink, yellow, green and blue. We also used essential oils to give them fragrance,” says Apurv Misal, head-Marketing and Sales of Phool.co.
The firm also sells charcoal-free incense made with recycled flowers collected from temples around the Ganga in Kanpur. “We collect two to two-and-a-half tons of flowers every day. We have trained women from an underprivileged background for the work. Most of our customers are the ones who are conscious of the environment and Nature. It is a long journey, but we are happy at the impact we are creating.”
With inputs from Nivedita Ganguly