August 5, 2010 on 11:00 am
From the desk of The Spiritual Explorer
Dear Spiritual Explorer: I went to a Hindu wedding the other day and saw these wonderful designs on the bride’s hands. I had never seen this before. I heard it was called Mehndi. Can you tell me something about it and where I can get it myself? Hannah H., Columbus, IN
Earth Henna Body Art Kit
Mehndi is the traditional art of henna painting in India and the Middle East. It is very traditional to see a bride with henna tattoos at her marriage. For particularly auspicious occasions, such as a wedding, it is not unusual to see the bridegroom with Mehndi on his body, as well as several members of the bridal party. Henna on any occasion symbolizes fertility and the love between husband and wife. The stain’s long-lasting nature is a symbol of the enduring nature of their love.
Henna in India arose during the 12th century in India and many writings outline its earliest use. It was Arabic Muslims who brought henna to India where it was converted to its own unique style. In the United States at this time, I see where it has become very popular and have also seen it as party diversions at events such as carnivals, fundraisers and private parties. It has become a very “in” thing to do.
Mehndi came into use because of its cooling therapeutic effect in a hot climate, and, in India, it was also a way for a bride and groom to get to know one another before an arranged marriage. The groom’s name is usually written somewhere within the bride’s Mehndi. An interesting supposition is that if he cannot find his name within the design, the bride is said to have control in the marriage. Also, a dark Mehndi design for both bride and groom signifies that the two will have a strong relationship
To make the dye, henna leaves are dried and finely ground resulting in a powder. The artist then mixes the fine powder with an oil such as eucalyptus and other liquids, lemon, water or tea, making a thick paste. The paste is then applied to the hands in various designs which range from large, thick patterns to Moroccan geometric patterns to traditional Indian paisleys and lace-like drawings. The tattoos can last one to three weeks on the skin. While the color is a deep shade of green, once removed, the dye leaves a color varying from light orange to deep brownish-black. The Earth Henna Body Art Kit sold at Ma’s India contains a pre-measured henna paste enough for 15 to 20 designs along with a book called Mehndi which recounts the history of Mehndi and step by step instructions on how to create beautiful designs accompanied by wonderful photographs and illustrations. This is a wonderful kit for anybody starting out.
Enjoy the art of Mehndi, Hannah. It has a wonderful history and the art creates happiness for its users. Thanks for writing.
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