Making Natural Holi Colours

Making Natural Holi Colours


“Holi” is a cultural festival in India, which marks the advent of spring and is celebrated with colours. Traditionally it was played with natural dyes made from flowers. In Vrindavan for example, holi is still celebrated according to tradition, with rose petals and tuber rose. But today, tradition has been replaced with toxic and synthetic holi colours, which are available in the market, eg. Purple colour comes from chromium iodide, black from lead oxide. These chemicals, made from substances like industrial dyes are not only a health hazard but also contribute to significant amount of pollution of local water sources.


1. To help the students realize the simple steps involved in preparing natural holi colours.
2. To prevent pollution of water sources resulting from the entry of toxic holi colours in water, and
3. To reduce the amount of water wasted thus, in washing off the colours from the skin.

Materials Required

1. pH paper strip / litmus paper
2. Flowers, leaves, roots of plants.
3. Beaker
4. Bunsen burner
5. Distilled water
6. Samples of common holi colours found in market


  1. Assess the various physical parameters of water quality for the water in which holi colours have been dissolved.
  2. Students can execute a health survey a day or two before and again, after holi, of the people using the toxic holi colours, so as to determine the effects of the colours directly. This would give them a brief idea of the same effect on people from using water mixed with these colours.
  3. Observe the flowering trees, herbs, roots etc in your locality and try to find and prepare suitable natural colouring agents from them. Experiment with various flower petals, leaves and roots and make home-made concoctions by simple physical methods, like boiling, soaking or drying and grinding the natural products to get different colours. Keep in mind that the colours that you would be preparing must be harmless to the skin and eyes, must be economical to use and easy to prepare. Given this idea, you can also search for chemicals, which are harmless to use, and are cheaply available.
  4. Prepare solutions of natural holi colours in water in separate glass beakers. Assess their various physical and chemical parameters – reaction on skin / allergic test, solubility in less amount of water, pH levels etc.

Some colours, which the students can prepare, are:

Dry Colours

  1. Yellow – Mix one part ground turmeric to two parts of flour or besan. You can also use atta, maida, rice flour, arrowroot powder, fuller’s earth / multani mitti and even talcum powder in place of besan. Mix appropriate quantity of the powder with besan, etc. or use separately. You can use cheaper methods like drying the rind of the Bael fruit (Aegle marmelos) and grinding it to obtain a yellow powder.
  2. Red – Grind red sandalwood into fine powder and use it as a natural colour. Remember, that your colour concoction must be economical to use and easy to prepare. Red sandalwood powder may be expensive and difficult to procure, so you may use herbal vermillion instead. This you can prepare by mixing together sun dried and powdered extracts of hibiscus, marigold, sunflower etc. To increase the bulk add any flour to it.
  3. Green –Pure mehendi / henna powder. Mix with equal quantity of flour to get a lovely shade of green. “Dr Mehendi” will not leave its imprint on your face as it can be easily brushed off. You can also crush the leaves of the wheat plant to obtain a natural and safe green Holi colour.
  4. Black – Take a small or medium sized steel container and brush it with a little mustard oil. Hold it (oil-side down and facing the candle flame) on top of a lighted candle with the help of a pair of iron tongs. After some time you will find black soot collecting in the container. This is natural collyrium or kajol, and can be used as a black dye.

Wet Colours

  1. Majenta – Finely grate beetroot and mix in with water. This will yield a majenta colour.
  2. Red – Boil ten to fifteen peels of onion in half litre of water. Cool and use as a red colour. Lac dye may also be used to produce a natural red colour. This can be mixed with required amount of water to get the correct diluted effect as desired. Nodules of certain leafy creepers like the pui. Also produces a reddish dye which can be soaked in water to bring the desired shade of colour. Buras (Rhododendron arboretum) known as ‘Burans’ in the Garhwal hills and ‘Brans’ in the Kumaon hills gives a lovely red colour when soaked in water overnight.
  3. Purple – Take some amount of potassium permanganate and put it in a bucket of water. It will readily dissolve and the hue would be that of a deep purple, which could be used as a harmless chemical dye.
  4. Blue – Crush the berries (fruits) of the Indigo plant and add to water for desired colour strength. In some Indigo species the leaves when boiled in water yield a rich blue.
  5. Black – Boil dried fruits of Amla / Indian Gooseberry in an iron vessel and leave it overnight. Dilute with water and use.

Suggested Activity

Try out and experiment with new colours using flowers like marigold, yellow chrysanthemum, tesu, various leaves like spinach etc to make your own natural holi colour. Demonstrate to your school mates and friends in the neighbourhood. Collectively plan to use only natural holi colours during this holi.


Source: Harness water resources for a better future - Activity Guide for the 13th National Children's Science Congress