The Hindu marriage season is a special time for Henna tattoos or 'Mehendi'.
Hindus often use the term 'Mehendi' interchangeably with marriage, and Mehendi
is considered among the most auspicious 'ornaments' of a married woman.
No Mehendi, No Marriage!
Mehendi is not just a way of artistic expression, sometimes it's a must! A Hindu
wedding includes a number of religious rites before and during the nuptials,
and Mehendi play a vital role in it, so much so that no Indian marriage is considered
complete without it! The reddish brown color of Mehendi - which stands for the
prosperity that a bride is expected to bring to her new family - is considered
most auspicious for all wedding-related ceremonies.
The Mehendi Ritual
A day before her wedding, the girl and her female folks gather for the Mehendi
ritual - a ceremony traditionally marked by joie de vivre
- during which
the bride-to-be embellish their hands, wrists, palms and feet with the lovely
red hue of the Mehendi. Even the groom's hand, especially in Rajasthani weddings,
is decorated with Mehendi patterns.
There's nothing strictly sacred or spiritual about it, but applying Mehendi
is considered beneficial and lucky, and always regarded as beautiful and blessed.
That is perhaps why Indian women are so fond of it. But there're some popular
beliefs about Mehendi, especially prevalent among women.
Wear It Dark & Deep
A deeply colored design is generally considered a good sign for the new couple.
It's a common belief among Hindu women that during the nuptial rituals the darker
the imprint left on the bride's palms, the more her mother-in-law will love
her. This belief may have been contrived to make the bride sit patiently for
the paste to dry and yield a good imprint. A bride is not expected to perform
any household work until her wedding Mehendi has faded. So wear it dark and
A bride's wedding designs usually includes a hidden inscription of the groom's
name on her palm. It's believed, if the groom fails to find his name within
the intricate patterns, the bride will be more dominant in conjugal life. Sometimes
the wedding night is not allowed to commence until the groom has found the names.
This is also seen as a subterfuge to let the groom touch the bride's hands in
order to find his name, thus initiating a physical relationship. Another superstition
regarding Mehendi is that if an unmarried girl receives scrapings of Mehendi
leaves from a bride, she will soon find a suitable match.
How to Apply
The Mehendi paste is prepared by powdering dried leaves and mixing it with water.
The paste is then squeezed through the tip of a cone to draw patterns on the
skin. The 'designs' are then allowed to dry for 3-4 hours until it becomes hard
and crusted, during which the bride must sit still. This also lets the bride
take some rest, while listening to pre-nuptial advice from friends and elders.
The paste is also said to cool the bride's nerves. After it dries, the gruff
remains of the paste are washed off. The skin is left with a dark rusty red
imprint, which stays for weeks. (For details see our step-by-step 'how to'