Mehndi or henna is a paste that is bought in a cone-shaped tube and is made into designs for men and women. Mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā.The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hindu Vedic ritual books.
Mehndi in Indian tradition is typically applied during special Hindu weddings and Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Vat Purnima, Diwali, Bhai Dooj and Teej. In Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet and sometimes on the back of their shoulders too, as men have it applied on their arms, legs, back, and chest. For women, it is usually drawn on the palm, back of the hand and on feet, where the design will be clearest due to contrast with the lighter skin on these surfaces, which naturally contain less of the pigment melanin. Muslims of Indian subcontinent also apply Mehndi during their festivals like Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha.
Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in the ancient Indian subcontinent. It is typically applied during weddings – for brides. In Rajasthan, the grooms are given designs that are often as elaborate as those for those for brides. In Assam, apart from marriage, it is broadly used by unmarried women during Rongali bihu.
Henna paste is usually applied on the skin using a plastic cone, a paint brush or a stick. After about 15–20 minutes, the mud will dry and begin to crack, and during this time, a mixture of lemon juice and white sugar can be applied over the henna design to remoisten the henna mud so that the henna will stain darker. The painted area is then wrapped with tissue, plastic, or medical tape to lock in body heat, creating a more intense colour on the skin. The wrap (not a traditional method), is worn for two to six hours, or sometimes overnight, and then removed. When first removed, the henna design is pale to dark orange in colour and gradually darkens through oxidation, over the course of 24 to 72 hours. The final color is reddish brown and can last anywhere from one to three weeks depending on the quality and type of henna paste applied, as well as where it was applied on the body (thicker skin stains darker and longer than thin skin). Moisturizing with natural oils, such as olive, sesame seed, or coconut, will also help extend the lifetime of the stain. Skin exfoliation causes the henna tattoo to fade.
Mehndi in Weddings
According to Hindu tradition, the ceremony is mainly held at the bride’s house or at a banquet hall on the eve of the marriage ceremony or few days before the marriage. Generally the bride and groom attend the event together and on the occasion a professional mehndi artist or a relative applies mehndi to the bride’s hands and feet. The designs are very intricate. Often hidden within the mehndi pattern the name or initials of the groom are applied. The event generally has a celebratory festival feel to it with the women dancing and singing traditional songs and the girls wearing vivid colors such as hot pink and yellow, often if the bride to be wishes to tease her future groom she will make him wear purple. The groom usually wears jutti instead of western footwear.
Evolution Of Traditional Mehendi Designs
The traditional designs of mehndi have become more and more intricate and decorative with time, with people getting more creative and ideas can easily be picked-up from online magazines. Several types of mehendi patterns are available today, most popular ones being the Arabic and Rajasthani designs.