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It isn't quick, a marigold's journey to colour

Kathy Williams

Posted on May 13 2019

Our process when preparing natural dye from temple marigolds is not quick and is not so easy. It is very time consuming and has its beautiful and not so beautiful moments.

The benefits of this process though are many and we take great pride in the knowledge we are making beauty from wastage that would otherwise end up as land fill and create a negative impact on the waterways.

 In festival season, from October to February, at Mahabodhi Temple they can use well over 1000kg of marigold, rose petals, jasmin and lotus for temple offerings and decoration. The offerings and decorations are usually changed weekly or even twice a week, depending on festivals being celebrated.

All the flowers come from Kolkata to Bodh Gaya bundled in hessian, paper and binding ready to be prepared by a team of very dedicated flower decorators.


Garlands are made by the artisans prior to hanging, strings of marigold are threaded and bouquets and bowls are created so the installation can begin.


Once the flowers come down it is time for The Happy Hands Project artisans to begin their work. The flowers have to be discarded quickly as a new instalment is being prepared to replace the old one coming down. Everything is thrown into an area, all the flowers along with all sorts of waste and rubbish. We have to sort out as much as we can on site before we transport flowers to our workshop.


The first thing to be done is to lay marigolds out to dry. Throughout this process we try to remove any badly decayed marigold as this will encourage mould to spread through all the marigold. Rain is often a hindrance to our work as it too can attract mould and ruin a large amount of flowers, we then compost these with a bit of lime to accelerate the decomposition.

Our aim is to process as much of the marigolds through festival time to we create a constant supply of this precious dye.

Once marigolds have been dried, we pluck all the petals, re-lay the petals to ensure they are completely dry before we grind petals into a powder. This is done to minimise storage requirement and also for ease throughout the dyeing process.

We take the processing of the marigolds very seriously to pay our respect to Mahabodhi Temple foremost and to be proud of the quality of our dye.

The last stage of preparing the natural dye is to clean our work area. As we are working with a natural plant material it is paramount to be vigilant with cleanliness as to avoid the spread or growth of bacteria and mould. The artisans clean the area thoroughly after each batch of marigolds has been processed.

There are many different reasons people choose to use natural dye and there are also many benefits.

  • The environmental impact of natural dye compared to chemical dyes is overwhelmingly apparent. There is minimal if any negative impact on the environment using natural dyes. The waterways and lands are safe from this practise.
  • We only use Khadi, natural fibres and natural dye, our aim is to produce a product 100% natural for the benefit of our precious earth and the health of humanity.
  • Zero waste practice is a sustainably viable practice leaving minimal footprint, a unique aspect in comparison to current textile processes. Natural dye stuff once exhausted in the dye vat can be composted, the vat water can be used on the dye garden.
  • The biggest feature yet often the most unknown is the response natural dye has to human skin. Our skin is our biggest organ, we have been educated about the impact a healthy diet has within our body, not enough education has been shared regarding the impact chemical dyes used in the textile industry have on our body. Our skin absorbs dyes when we sweat, when we exercise, when we sleep, the intimate encompassing connection textiles have with our body needs to be regarded with more questions. We know the devastation chemical dyes have on our waterways, the ecosystems within our waterways, what impact is it silently having on our bodies, what is our skin absorbing from chemical colourants on a daily basis?


  • Historically natural dyes were considered to be beneficial for the wearer on many different levels. It has recently been proven that natural dyes contain antimicrobial activity and scientific research is continuing on dye producing plants, insects and minerals as to the health benefits each plant contains. Natural dye plants have properties such as antiviral, antibacterial, anti inflammatory, Indigo has many healing properties. Natural dye historically and traditionally works harmoniously with Ayurvedic medicine, an ancient practise of health and wellbeing native to India.

 Khadi dyed with natural dye could be regarded as a sacred cloth, so many beneficial elements for earth and self. Marigolds from Mahabodhi Temple are unique and have in themselves already travelled a spiritual journey.

It is because of this we take so much care and attention to the finest details, it is not easy or quick, but we know it is genuine and honest.










  • Dr. Swati Nikam: October 09, 2019

    Hi there. I liked your story of preparing dye from temple flowers. Organic ways of life are the need of time. I have completed my Ph.D in Chemistry of nanomaterials and have been working on photocatalytic degradation of synthetic dyes using nanomaterials. Its so difficult to do it using most advanced techniques due to which I found your story very appealing. Synthetic dyes are widely used in printing, textile and dying industry. Thus their effluents pose a serious threat to environment. It would thus be more sensible to switch over to organic and natural dyes instead of finding solutions to deal with pollution.
    I have a few doubts regarding your project, such as:
    1. Can it be done on large scale?
    2. If I wish to start similar project in my city, who should I contact?
    3. Who can guide and help me to work this out?
    I tried to contact Mr. Praveen Chouhan but did not succeed. Can you share his contact details?
    Thank you once again for sharing such a magnificent story.
    with warm regards and best wishes.
    Dr. Swati Nikam,

  • B B Paul : May 15, 2019

    Wonderful. Great effort for the craft, craftsman and of course mother earth towards sustainability. All the best. God bless you all.

  • Mridula Rawat: May 14, 2019

    I am happy to see Happy Hand project..they are using our Holy Waste in proper way.Best wishes

  • Shiv Shankar Prasad : May 14, 2019

    ‘Happy hands projects’ is not only your achievements but also supports the rural people. Your team has generated employment in the village of Bodhgaya.
    You have reorganized something which is resulted in an unbelievable job. The making of natural dyes from waste flowers is a great task.
    Last, but not the least, I wish you always come up with a new idea that improve things.
    Thank you.

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