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Mehndi or Henna is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hinduism's Vedic ritual books. Haldi (staining oneself with turmeric paste) as well as mehndi are Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered around the idea of "awakening the inner light". Traditional Indian designs are of representations of the sun on the palm, which, in this context, is intended to represent the hands and feet.
mehndi also known as henna in the western world is the application of as a temporary form of skin decoration, practiced mainly India and Nepal. Popularized by Indian cinema and entertainment industry Bollywood, the people in Pakistan, Bangladesh and the Maldives as well as by expatriate communities from those countries also use Mehandi. This tradition has spreaded to exist among some Arab Women particularly the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf nationals. Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos.
mehndi is typically applied during special Hindu occasions like weddings and festivals like Karva Chauth, Vata poornima, Diwali, Bhaidooj and Teej. In Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet. It is usually drawn on the palms and feet, where the design will be clearest because the skin on these surfaces naturally contains less of the pigment melanin. Henna was originally used as a form of decoration mainly for Hindu brides. Muslims festivals adopted subsequently during Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha as well.
In the modern age and even due to limited supply of Indian Traditional Mehndi artists, usually people buy ready-made Henna cones, which are ready to use and make painting easy. However, in rural areas in India, women grind fresh henna leaves on grinding stones with added oil, which though not as refined as professionally prepared henna cones, brings much darker colors.
Likely due to the desire for a "tattoo-black" appearance, many people have started adding the synthetic dye p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) to henna to give it a black colour. PPD is extremely harmful to the skin and can cause severe allergic reactions resulting in permanent injury or death. Alata (Mahur) is a flower-based dye used to paint the feet of the brides in some regions of India. It is still used in Bengal.[clarification needed]
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Mehndi is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient India. Intricate patterns of mehndi are typically applied to brides before wedding ceremonies. The bridegroom is also painted in some parts of India. In Rajasthan, the grooms are given designs that are often as elaborate as those for brides. In Assam, apart from marriage, it is broadly used by unmarried women during Rongali bihu, but there are no restrictions on its use by married women.
Muslims in India also started to use it as an indication of coming of age. Henna is now also used in some Gulf States, where the night before the wedding night is dedicated to decorating the bride with henna, and called "Henna night". In the Middle East and Africa, it is common for women to apply henna to their fingernails and toenails and to their hands.
Some Muslims also use henna as a dye for their hair and for the beards of males - intended to follow the presumed tradition of their prophet, Muhammad, who is said to have used turmeric dye in his beard. In one narration by him, he encouraged Muslim women to dye their nails with henna so their hands could be distinguished from the hands of a male.
In Africa, henna was used as part of spiritual practices by tribes to decorate their bodies and for protective purposes when certain symbols/designs were incorporated.
As a result, some African countries like Somalia, henna is applied to women and girls during Eid, weddings, and visits to important people or relatives.. In most countries, Henna is seen as a way for women to beautify themselves (as jewels), so is well decorated and applied with good care.
Henna paste is usually applied on the skin using a plastic cone or a paint brush, but sometimes a small metal-tipped jacquard[disambiguation needed] bottle used for silk painting (a jac bottle) is employed. 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 3 to 6 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.
Traditional Hindu Weddings in India can often be long, ritualistic, and elaborate affairs with many pre-wedding, wedding and post wedding ceremonies. Different countries and regions of a country celebrate the ceremonies in different ways according to their own marriage customs, rituals, and culture.
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.
In Pakistan, the Mehndi is often one of the most important and fun filled pre-wedding ceremonies, which is celebrated mainly by the bride's family. In Bangladesh, the Mehndi ceremony has traditionally been separated into two events; one organized by the bride's family and one, by the groom's family. Mehndi ceremonies take place outside India, Pakistan and Bangladesh amongst the South Asian community and places like Birmingham in the UK are such known hotspots for lavish Mehndi celebrations.
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