Water balloons and pichkaris, brightly coloured powders (gulal) and paint, water guns and sprinklers; the perfect way to usher in Holi, the exuberant festival of colours. Holi, a festival where geysers of colours shoot in the air, the atmosphere filled with mischief, people dousing each other with colours and water, and immersing themselves in masti and mazza (fun).
But here is some food for thought on this day of joy – if one person uses a single bucket of water (the minimum) to play Holi, he uses a minimum of 15 litres in a single day. Assuming that five lakh out of the estimated population of any city play Holi with water, there is a wastage of 75 lakh litres of water in the day. The amount doubles/triples when a person increases his usage and consumes more than a bucket for playing, bathing and cleaning, which is most probably the most common case as well – who plays Holi with one bucket?
So where does that leave us in these water scarce times? How do we balance sustainability with tradition? Here are some answers to help you celebrate an ecofriendly holi.
The connection between Holi, colours and water
Holi marks the arrival of spring, a season of hope and myriad colours, good harvests and fertile land. The festival also symbolizes the victory of good over evil with the burning of Holika, an evil demoness. Holika Dahan or the lighting of the bonfire signifies this victory. Colours are sprayed next day with drums, songsm and traditional Holi delicacies served with gujiya, malpuas, puran poli, dahi vadas, etc. The different colours symbolize purity (red), friendliness (pink), vitality (green), etc.
In Bhuj, it is the festival of love between Krishna and Radha, while in Gorakhpur it celebrates the brotherhood of men. In Goa, it is a part of spring festival, and in Mumbai it is the season to “forgive and forget”, starting new relationships.
Here are ways to make this colourful festival a little less harsh on the environment:
1. Rang De Basanti – make your own colours
Make colours at home. Your friends and neighbours will love you for this, as there are no harsh chemicals to deal with and no side effects. Plus, they are easily washable from the skin and clothes, thus reducing water consumption drastically. Gram flour, turmeric, fuller’s earth, sandal wood powder, henna powder; these can be used to make myriad colours. Flowers like marigold and gulmohar, and vegetables like beetroot can be easily used to create fine colours. Most of these ingredients are used in kitchens and beauty face packs. So it’s also a bonus for the skin, as they smell great and are gentle on skin. For more details you could take a look at this video.
2. Use your forehead – Tilak Holi
Move away from throwing colours and water on each other. Opt for a simple Tilak Holi, where you celebrate by applying tilak (a mark on forehead) on each other.
3. Say it with flowers – Phoolon Ki Holi
You can celebrate Holi with flowers too. Many parts of North India like Lucknow, Pushkar, etc., indulge in this type of celebration. The fun and frolic gets tripled in this Holi with people dressed up as Krishna and Radha and ushering in spring and new life with flower petals. Songs accompanied to the beat of drums makes the atmosphere electric. One thing to note – appropriate arrangements have to be made for used flowers, and they should not be dumped in water.
4. Celebrate a waterless Holi
No water in pichkaris, no hurling water balloons, paints and bags on each other. In short, a dry Holi is one with only colours and no water.
Skin care tips for easy removal of colours
- While playing Holi wear dark coloured clothes. This makes cleaning easier with less water usage as well.
- Apply coconut oil on hair which acts as a protecting agent and prevents colours from penetrating deep inside hair. Or wear a cap or bandana to protect your hair.
- To prevent nails from being stained, coat it with a dark nail polish.
- Moisturize your skin with heavy creams or oil. The thick layer formed will not let the colours seep deep. Protect your face with sunscreen and lips with petroleum jelly as well.
- Before heading for a bath, use a mix of gram flour, milk cream and a bit of lemon juice to fade the colours. You could also use wheat flour and oil on lemon wedges to remove colour. You can then indulge in a quick wash. For hair, use jojoba or coconut oil to remove colour. Use a face wash and then water to rinse your face.
5. And if you still must, make sure every drop counts!
If you wish to indulge in water filled Holi then try out these tips to prevent yourself from going overboard on water usage.
- Avoid throwing plastic bags and balloons filled with water over others. The bags litter the environment, hurt others and waste precious water as well.
- Pre plan your Holi Celebrations. Decide beforehand the amount of water you can use and stick to that limit.
- Though running water and a hose makes the cleaning task easier, it results in water wastage. Instead, fill water prior to the celebrations and then use it for bathing, cleaning, and washing.
- Plan a community celebration for Holi, or designate an area for playing Holi. This way, you avoid getting the entire house dirty. After playing, let the kids use a commune bath if possible.
- You can also avoid dark spots and stains on floors by covering the floor with a canvas or polyester with water resistant properties. This way you can avoid wasting water, not to mention scrubbing and cleaning, and using stuff such as liquid bleach, baking powder/detergent powder on floors.
- You can optimise water usage further while cleaning rooms. Just take a bucket of soapy water, add stain-free solution to it, grab a sponge and wipe clean the stains and coloured areas. For harder stains use washing soda. Once cleaned, use plain water and a sponge to clean the floor and finally finish off with dry wipe of the floor.