The realm of natural dyes in India

The many shades of eco-dyes in India

Image-Wikimedia commons

By Shruti Pandey

India is known as the land of colors; hues are inhaled to exhale in various shades of life. Be it about the way of life, the diversity or the natural resources, colors are in our blood. Delving into the types of natural colors that are procured from India, it is evident that India ranks high in the realms of production of colors.

The top 10 eco-dyes found in the country are-

1. Sindoor (BIXA OLEREANA): It is a very important medicine and dye that grows in India. It is used by married women to fill the partition of their hair. It treats rabies naturally, and if used in regulated amount, it is a potential cure for mental disorders. The chemical alternative of it is colored silica that is being abundantly used.

2. Gulal (CESALPINIA SAPPAN): India gains monopoly in the international trade of Gulal, being its top most producer. It has a disparate glitter and finds usage in cosmetic products all over the world. This also provides heavy foreign exchange to the country.

3. Palash (BUTEA MONOSPERMA): It’s a plant of religious importance as its dye was used to play Holi (a festival of water and colors) and it finds this mention in Mahabharata as well. The state of Uttar Pradesh has this as their “state tree”. It is a cure of skin disorders and cleanses skin pores naturally.

Palash Tree
Palash Tree

4. Mehendi (LAWSONIA INDICUS): This is a sacred dye in India as women apply this on their hand on almost every auspicious occasion. It is also a natural dye for coloring hair. It does not possess a color of its own but produces an orangish brown color once it comes in contact with keratin. It originated in Arabia but is grown extensively in India and heavy exports are also done.


5. Neel (INDIGOFERA TINCTORIA): It is a wild weed growing in parts of North India. This is a blue colored dye and is used with hair colors to intensify their color. Apart from that, it finds its usage in coloring clothes blue.

6. Haldi (CURCUMA DOMESICA): It’s the spice found in India (although it is in dispute with USA over the patent) that has the most anti-cancerous properties. Its consumption as well as application provides strong resistance to cancer. It is a sacred dye for Hindus and is used in an auspicious tradition in marriages.

7. Harshringar (NYCTANTHUS ORNAMENTALE): It is an ornamental plant and finds mention in various epics about being used by goddesses for adornment. It is also an edible dye. It is widely used as natural coloring agents in various types of foods and candies.

8. Gurhal (HIBISCUS ROSASINENSIS) : Its flowers generate a natural polish or cream that can be used for leather preservation. Apart from that, it imparts blood red color and is a thick dye withdark shade.


9. Kattha (ACACIA CATECHU): It’s a traditional medicine for curing intestinal disorders. It is consumed in India along with Beetle nut and Beetle leaves that is known as “ Paan”. It has light brown color in the core and dark brown on the surface. When hydrated, it produces a light brown color.

10. Herbal Gulal: It’s a dye made by National Botanical Research Institute, Lucknow and it comprises of three elements- Palash, Gulal and Sindoor. It has a potential market in Europe and North America where it is used for dying clothes and imparting a shiny yellow or orange color to the clothes.

Shruti Pandey is a third year engineering student in HBTI, Kanpur and aspires to bring a change through words. Twitter  @srt_kaka