Changing Holi: One Colour At A Time

March 3, 2014 , by Pragya Thapaliya, Leave your thoughts
Changing Holi: One Colour At A Time » My Dreams Mag
Wasting water for a few hours of conviviality is not pragmatic, and we should evolve with the conditions we are presented with, opting for practical ways to celebrate Holi. The smart way to tackle this problem is to practice a dry Holi.


While Nepali moms are lining their empty gagri and baltin at local stone spouts to get water for daily requirements, the kids are seen waiting at corners, impish looks on their faces. Their hands are full of water-filled plastic pouches, waiting to pounce upon an innocent passerby. These are typical scenes in urban areas as Holi turns up around the corner.

Holi, also known as Falgu Purnima, is celebrated on full moon day of the 11th month of the Nepali calendar. Legends say that the demon King Hiranyakasyapu’s son Prahlad was a devotee of Lord Vishnu. As the King was intolerant of his son worshipping his arch-enemy, he asked his sister Holika, who was gifted the immunity of fire by Agni Devata himself, to take Prahlad up on a pyre and kill him. However, Prahlad who sat on the lap of his aunt, was protected by his deity, and the fire combusted Holika instead. Holi that once stood for the victory of good over evil is slowly shifting its paradigms. The festival with holy roots is starting to lose its value because of unholy practices. The festivity of colour, exuberance and merrymaking, has slowly been turning to boisterous mischief-making, causing both social and ecological problems.

Incidences of eve teasing become common as Holi approaches. Boys and men gather on their junctions around schools and colleges, on top of their terraces, and target girls and women with lolas, water pouches, and sometimes even buckets full of water which isn’t necessarily clean. After being doused, the girls are expected to keep quiet and move on. If they make any signs of protests, they get further hit with more balloons. People respond with ‘Barsa ko ek patak aune Holi ta ho ni’ or ‘Holi ma pani chyapihalcha ni. Testo man naparne bhaye ghar bata kina niskeko?’ Eve teasing that is generally considered a deviance is perceived as a ‘culture’ at this time of the year, and society ignores it. A lot of schools and colleges in urban areas give a few days off prior to the festival so as to ‘ease off’ the Holi pressure for their female students.

Society, right from the birth of a child, assigns them certain gender roles. While the girls are asked to behave in a ‘ladylike manner’, boys are taught to take charge, making them more aggressive than your average female. According to Symbolic-Interaction Approach, gender shapes the human behaviour, usually placing men in charge of social situations. Men are usually the ones who initiate the interactions, whereas women typically act in a deferential manner. Holi is no exception to this.

The engagement of males in Holi celebration is found to be more active than of females. And the women can be seen shying away from the clusters of men as this festival draws closer. An observer can clearly see that Holi ‘celebration’ is a perquisite vested upon the male members of society.

Legend has it that Krishna complained to his mother Yashoda of Radha’s fairer complexion, and his mother’s ‘word of wisdom’ was to apply colour on Radha’s face. This doesn’t give us the permission to carry on this nettlesome act on strangers millenniums later. Having fun within your peer circle and wallowing in water in the blistering sun of Falgun sure might sound like a good idea, but splashing water on women without their consent is tantamount to harassing them. The ‘culture’ must be put an end to.

Holi not only gives rise to social problems, but also has negative consequences on the environment. Society seems to turn a blind eye to World Water day, just six days away from Holi, which reminds us to minimize the use of water. Instead, the festival that is supposedly a day long practically lasts more than a month.

It is estimated that Kathmandu valley requires 350 million litres of water per day. But during the dry seasons, Kathmandu Upatyaka Khanepani Limited (KUKL) is only able to supply 90 million litres of water. According to the National Population and Housing Census 2011, Kathmandu valley consists of more than 6.13 lakh households. If each household uses 50 plastic pouches for Holi, they will use more than 30 million pouches. Assuming a plastic pouch can carry one seventh of a litre, a total of 4.3 million litres will be spent by these plastic pouches alone. Considering the water used in lolas and water sprayers, this number will rise even higher. Despite the major increment in the demand of water at this time of the year, the supply remains the same. This imbalance in demand and supply results in severe water crisis.

Wasting water for a few hours of conviviality is not pragmatic, and we should evolve with the conditions we are presented with, opting for practical ways to celebrate Holi. The smart way to tackle this problem is to practice a dry Holi. Although the idea of Holi without water might sound ludicrous and alien to some, it makes ecological sense.

Plastic pouches have been troublemakers since the last few Holis. Water sprayers, colours, balloons and plastic pouches worth Rs. 25 million are sold in the valley during this period. And plastic pouches form a significant share of the amount. The lolas that used to be the precedents of plastic pouches have been slowly disappearing from the scene. Plastic pouches are cheaper, costing not more than a rupee for four. There is no need to tie these plastics like the balloons, and hence they are quick and handy.

Although the lolas were not environmentally safe either, they seemed to disappear in a few days. But the plastic bags are another story. As estimated above, more than 30 million pouches are used in Holi inside the valley alone. The management of these thin solids is a huge problem. Even after a week or so, they are lying at pavements, sometimes clogging the drainage and evoking greater problems. No one questions whether the plastic pouches conform to the 40 microns standard, which is the minimum limit for a plastic bag to be recycled. So, we don’t even know whether these plastics are non–recyclable in addition to being non-biodegradable.

Even before Holi officially begins, the roads and the streets almost give the impression of the aftermath of a battle. The pouches resting on the ground alongside the puddles of coloured water gives that illusion, atrocious remains that are clear depicters of our savage ways. A visitor might ask whether it would be more justified to call the city ‘city of junkyards’ instead of ‘a city of temples’.

They say, “You reap what you sow”. The cognition process of a child begins from family and develops from surroundings. In the name of handing down our culture, sometimes we fail to ponder upon the negative upshots. The result is another naive generation that cannot distinguish culture from malpractices. 

Stakeholders like Kathmandu Metropolitan City Office seem to be indifferent towards the consequences of Holi. Waste collectors travel from door-to-door the next day and pick up these solid wastes, but that does not bring awareness about minimizing their consumption. Some conscious citizens hand it over to the Metropolitan collectors, which is eventually taken to a landfill site. Others take the unholy remains to the holiest and most sacred constituent of our environment–the rivers. And we grimace as we walk along these rivers, as if it is acting like a naughty child who hasn’t taken a shower in ages.

The colours used in Holi further add to the pile of problems. The dry colours used in the Holi are neither health friendly, nor fit for environment exposure. They are usually made from Mercury Sulphide, Asbestos and lead derivatives that cause Dermatitis, Eczema, Asthma, and act as carcinogens. Eventually, they get mixed in water and harm myriads of aquatic life forms. This Holi, think twice before ‘emblazoning’ your life with these unhealthy colours.

Centuries after the beginning of Holi, we fail to realize that the festival is about compassion and respect. The Holika story is a metaphor that stands for letting go of your inner demons, burning them on a pyre, and rejoicing and lionizing the new you. So why not stop acting like a Neanderthal this Holi, and behave like the civilized Homo Sapiens that we actually are? Celebrate it just for a day. Celebrate it with the ones that want to be a part of the celebration. Use less water, minimize the use of colour. Say no to plastic pouches and lolas. Pledge to go eco friendly. Invite your friends and family over. Cook, eat, drink, sing and dance. Celebrate the joy of life. Celebrate the joy of Holi.


Text By: Pragya Thapaliya
Feature Image: justphotographer.com

  • Banner
  • justphotographer.com1
  • Banner

Tags: , , , , ,

Categorised in: Liefstyle

Leave a Reply

Connect with:

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *



You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Related Articles