Concern for your environment and for yourself go hand in hand. Now the Delhi Government is educating the public about pollution and  the importance of keeping nature clean by tying the issues with traditional Indian festivals.

In the recent past, Holi – a major Hindu festival – has seen its own share of growing environmental awareness also. Many individuals and groups have been successfully working to create awareness concerning the harsh chemicals and other strong ingredients in Holi colors that can cause skin and health problems.


Over time, there has been a gradual shift towards the use of safer naturally derived colors for the festival.The initial campaign to reform harmful practices was linked to another festival, Diwali, the festival of lights. To combat the high levels of air pollution that were known to get much worse around Diwali, the government targeted the use of fireworks in its educational campaign. A very successful social-awareness campaign was launched in local  schools as well.


Fireworks factories have been known to regularly employ  small children to make their products. School children were asked to boycott fireworks to dis-incentivize these factories from employing children. Visible decline was seen in the use of fireworks, thus helping to keep Delhi’s air cleaner. Last year the Delhi Government made an attempt to reach its citizens via a social network launched by the  “Dil Se Diwali” campaign.


 Public Awareness Grows


Now Holi is no longer a time for smearing the strongest chemical based color to leave lasting impact on one another; nor is it a time for soaking each other with water colored with toxic chemicals. Rather, it is a celebration when we soak the soul with fragrances; it is a time to experience floral itras, the traditional Indian perfume, and  a time to delight your senses and not damage yourself or our environment. It is also going back to older tradition of coloring the Holi water with extracts of of flowers, especially ‘tesu’.

This Holi, Delhi was a hub of sheer delight for the senses. I felt fortunate that Delhi was offering so many different kinds of Holi celebrations —  using raagas in classical songs, singing folk-songs, invariably using flower-petals to play Holi; creating a Gulbari (flowers=gul, house=bari) that offered a celebration of Holi exclusively with roses, and splashing tiny droplets of rose-itra about. To my delight, Holi here was rich in flowers — for aren’t colors and fragrances first found in flowers?

The success of this approach to improving our environment utilizing a traditional festival has inaugurated a whole new approach to helping keep our air and water clean. Festivals can become an occasion for sharing traditions, as well as education and knowledge. The public’s positive response proves just how well these new strategies are working.

   Photos courtesy of  Department of Environment and Forest, Government of NCT of Delhi