A Brief History Of Mehndi
Mehndi is the art of painting hands or feet or even the body with a paste made of dried henna leaves. It creates a stain that ranges from bright red to dark brown, but this color tends to fade over time and with the strength and quality of the paste that is made. Oils can be added to improve the richness of the color, but they are not necessary.
Mehndi was created in Egypt over 5,000 years ago and has been used for various artistic and religious purposes ever since. In Egypt, archaeologists have even found henna on the hands of mummies. Here in the West, it’s become popular as a temporary form of tattooing. Mehndi is painless and relatively inexpensive and is even offered in do-it-yourself kits that can be ordered online or in stores across the United States.
Different cultures created different types of applications. Whether it’s the geometric patterns popular in North Africa or the fine designs from India and Pakistan, patterns are created by applying the paste to the skin. When allowed to dry, the paste dyes the skin and brings out the vividness of the colors.
Since the application of henna is a traditional female practice, there is no historical documentation of its use. In cultures where Mehndi was popular, women had no formal education, and information was passed on orally, from mother to daughter, for generations. It is only in recent history that information and documentation about this beautiful and rich tradition have come to light.
Traditional weddings in India are occasions for brides to be decorated with henna. The Hindu tradition is that both the bride and groom participate in henna painting along with friends and family. This event before the royal wedding is an observation of Mehndi art, as it paints the bride with traditional symbols that can take on a festive atmosphere.
An additional and older practice is to celebrate the end of Ramadan, the Islamic month of fasting, with henna tattoos. These designs celebrate the success of Ramadan, which includes abstinence from paying attention to one’s physical appearance and beauty. To celebrate this, Mehndi artists paint intricate designs on Muslim women.
Although henna has been used as a ceremonial event for generations, it is important to remember that with Gandhi, it is a social event. Friends and family can gather to get a henna tattoo, not for religious or ceremonial purposes, but as a way to socialize and create beauty. The designs you produce and apply to your friends or family are a great way to show your feelings for that person. Being decorated with henna is a great way to show that you trust the person who is decorating you.
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