Although Mehendi is generally used in many Hindu festivals
and celebrations, there's no doubt that the Hindu
ceremony has become synonymous with this beautiful reddish dye.
What is Mehendi?
Mehendi (Lawsonia inermis
) is a small tropical shrub, whose leaves when
dried and ground into a paste, give out a rusty-red pigment, suitable for making
intricate designs on the palms and feet. The dye has a cooling property, and
no side effects on the skin. Mehendi is extremely suitable for creating intricate
patterns on various parts of the body, and a painless alternative to permanent
The Mughals brought Mehendi to India as lately as the 15th century AD. As the
use of Mehendi spread, its application methods and designs became more sophisticated.
The tradition of Henna or Mehendi originated in North Africa and the Middle
East. It is believed to have been in use as a cosmetic for the last 5000 years.
According to professional henna artist and researcher Catherine C Jones, the
beautiful patterning prevalent in India today has emerged only in the 20th century.
In 17th century India, the barber's wife was usually employed for applying henna
on women. Most women from that time in India are depicted with their hands and
feet hennaed, regardless of social class or marital status.
It's Cool & Fun!
The varied use of Mehendi by the rich and royal from very early times has made
it popular with the masses, and its cultural importance has grown ever since.
Mehendi's popularity lies in its fun value. It's cool and appealing! It's painless
and temporary! No lifetime commitment like real tattoos, no artistic skills
Mehendi in the West
The introduction of Mehendi into Euro-American culture is a recent phenomenon.
Today Mehendi, as trendy alternative to tattoos, is an in-thing in the West.
Hollywood actors and celebrities have made this painless art of body painting
famous. Actress Demi Moore, and 'No Doubt' crooner Gwen Stefani were among the
first to sport Mehendi. Since then stars like Madonna, Drew Barrymore, Naomi
Campbell, Liv Tyler, Nell McAndrew, Mira Sorvino, Daryl Hannah, Angela Bassett,
Laura Dern, Laurence Fishburne, and Kathleen Robertson have all tried Henna
tattoos, the great Indian way. Glossies, like Vanity Fair
, Wedding Bells
spread the Mehendi trend even further.
Mehendi in Hinduism
Mehendi is very popular with both men and women also as a conditioner and dye
for the hair. Mehendi is also applied during the various vratas
such as Karwa Chauth
, observed by married women. Even gods and goddesses are
seen to adorn Mehendi designs. A large dot in the centre of the hand, with four
smaller dots at the sides is an oft seen Mehendi pattern on the palms of Ganesha
. However, its most important use
comes in a Hindu Wedding.
Next Page: Why Mehendi is an Essential Part of Hindu Weddings and How to Make Henna Tattoos.)