Jadavpur Univesity (JU) department of chemical engineering showed a drive to make gulal (colour powder) eco-friendly. Every year the market during those days was flooded with chemical colours that were cheap and hazardous to health.
“The initiative started after a request of the state education department to make Holi eco-friendly and to utilize huge amounts of waste blossoms which were dump into River Ganga by sellers of Asia’s largest flower market Mallik ghat,” said Siddhartha Datta who was the head of the varsity’s Chemical Engineering department around then.
The project was headed by the then dean of the department Siddhartha Datta, Professor Chiranjib Bhattacharjee including other professors and some students. The initial processing of floral abir was done in a pilot plant in Bagnan.
Unlike the colours available in the market, the Puspa Abir is produced on a talcum powder base which doesn’t irritate skin. “After accumulation of waste flowers from the market and the beds of River Ganga, it is cleaved into pieces. At that point, the flower pieces are boiled into the hot water at a temperature of 60-70 degree Celsius followed by the mixing of the solution with talcum powder of different colours and alum. When done, natural aromas of flowers like jasmine etc are blended and dried under the shed for 24 hours.”
The varsity makes six category of gulal — pink, green, yellow violet, orange and white produced from China rose, marigold, flame of forest, butterfly bee, rose, and bixa seed.
The initial response was encouraging. To learn the gulal-making process, varsities from the United States, Canada, and England sent their group, said Siddhartha Datta who won the national patent for herbal dye in 2009. Jadavpur University also trains NGOs to produce gulal.
However, the product is unable to find buyers as the cost of making the herbal gulal is twice than the regular one. “If one kg of preparing chemical gulal costs Rs 15, the same for the herbal is around Rs 25 to 30,” said the Professor.
Also since Holi comes once in a year, they do not have an appropriate set-up. “We received a demand of around 50 kg of abir gulal, but due to lack of infrastructure, we could not meet the target. In addition, the wide disparity in the cost is also a reason that the product is unable to compete with the chemical one,” said the Professor.
Asthana Dutta, an ex-student of the varsity said that the product is good but the supply is low. “The initiative is extraordinary but due to the poor strategy of the institute, it is unavailable in the market.