The exuberant colours of Holi exude the vitality of spring, the vibrancy of life and a celebration of the richness of harvest. The festival arrives when the placid winter fades away and the effervescence of spring adds fresh colours in nature. With nature blooming in all its hues, the time is perfect to colour the atmosphere with the fun filled colours of Holi.

This is the time when everyone drowns in the mirthful revelry of the festival of colours. While it stands for “party time” for the city slickers, celebrating the onset of springtime is the real essence of the festival of colours. Soaked in the joyful spirit, the faces go beyond recognition with sprayed colours, clothes looking like drenched unacceptable rags, hair in disarray – but the spirit soaked in the joyful essence of the festival with laughing eyes, gyrations to music and utter glee on the faces. This is Holi.

Essentially a North Indian festival, it has been a while since the festival’s presence has been felt in South India. Today, Gujaratis, Marwaris, Sindhis, Punjabis and Bengalis in every city of the South have still retained their customs and bring in the festival in their own colourful way.

Traditional colours

Amid growing awareness about the dangers of using Holi colours due to presence of chemicals, most people prefer to use dry colours made of flower petals or other herbals. The colours used in the past had therapeutic values. Traditionally the colours known as gulal were made at home from the flowers of ‘tesu’ or ‘palash’ (flame of the forest). Turmeric, ‘mehendi’, banana leaves, ‘majishtha’ were also used to extract beautiful hues.

The colours used now have many chemical ingredients that are hazardous to health. Dry colours are made with asbestos and chalk powder, and silica. Alkaline-base is used in watercolours, which can cause serious eye diseases. Paste colours are mixed in a base of engine oil that can result in skin disorders. As these colours seep into the earth they pollute the soil and water as well. The eco-friendly colours of the past can be prepared with simple preparations at home too.

Tips

While gulals or dry powder colours are a safe choice, there is a range of herbal colours also available in the market. Made from flower petals and other herbs, they are available in vibrant colours. Screaming pink, marigold yellow or grasshopper green – these herbal colours are relatively safe and don’t burn the skin. However, dermatologists and beauticians warn that extra care has to be taken for sensitive skins. They suggest the use of an antiseptic cream or lacto-calamine ointment for hypersensitive skins before venturing out. While a coat of oil is a must, sunscreen lotions help against burns if there is prolonged exposure to the sun. Stay away from the silver liquid colour as that can play havocs to your skin.

While removing the colours, soap may not be a good option, as it tends to cause dryness. Instead, a cleanser is a better option. Follow this up with lots of moisturiser, specially one that is meant for sensitive skin. Use lots of water as it retains the PH balance of the skin, skin experts suggest. The colours can damage hair to a large extent. Use of hair oil will prevent the chemicals from penetrating in the hair. A mild shampoo with a good conditioner should be used to remove the colours.