LUCKNOW – The herbal colors made from the 'Palash' flower (Butea monosperma) by women self-help groups in several Uttar Pradesh districts are much in demand for Holi celebrations not only in the country but also foreign lands.

Women of self-help groups operating under the Uttar Pradesh State Rural Livelihood Mission are preparing 'gulals' (brightly colored powder) in red, green, purple, pink from the flowers in Sonbhadra, Mirzapur, Chandauli, Varanasi and Chitrakoot districts.

The gulals have found a demand in London besides other states in the country.

Kanchan, a woman working with the Sonbhadra Bhima Prerna group, said, "The Palash flowers are plucked and dried for a day. This is followed by boiling the flower in water for two hours which leaves behind a color. After this, we add colored water of Arrowroot to it, then it is spread and dried."

"The herbal gulal costs a small amount of money. It is prepared on an average cost of Rs 60 to 70. In the market, it is sold easily between Rs 150 to 200. It yields a good profit. As many as 11 women are preparing these herbal gulals with me. Till now our self-help group has prepared herbal gulal worth three quintals which has been sold in the Sonbhadra district," said Kanchan.

UP Rural Livelihood Mission director Sujit Kumar told IANS, "During Holi one must use chemical-free colors. For this purpose, gulal is being prepared from the flowers of Palash. The women of the self-help groups are engaged in this work. Especially in Sonbhadra and Mirzapur districts. So far, 5,000 kilograms of herbal colors and gulal have been prepared by 4,058 women self-help groups across 32 districts in the state, which have been sold for nearly Rs 7 lakh."

He said, "Apart from preparing herbal colors, chips, 'papad' and 'gujiya' are also being prepared by the women of the self-help groups. For this, training is also being imparted under the mission. A target of Rs one crore has been set to sell these products. The demand for herbal colors prepared by the Sonbhadra self-help group has come from London, where an order has been placed and sent abroad."

Pandit Sarojkant Mishra said, "According to mythological beliefs, rituals such as Yajyna are performed from the stem of the Palash flower. Project manager Acharya Shekhar said due to the fear of coronavirus, people are hesitant in playing with colors on this year's Holi. In such a situation, the demand for 'Palash' flower is increasing. This is because the colors made from Palash flowers are natural and do not cause any harm to the body. The demand for Palash flowers has grown in Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Chhattisgarh, Bihar, Uttarakhand besides London where orders have been placed and sent."

Ayurveda Acharya Vijay Seth said, "Palash flower is very beneficial for human beings. Its herbal colors do not harm the skin. Palash flower always enhances the skin. It protects against antiviral and antifungal infections as well as reduces pollution. It is very beneficial to cure stomach diseases. By not adding chemicals while making colors from Palash flowers will not cause any harm to the body."

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