Mehndi-A Lovely Body Art

I love its color. I love its earthy smell. I love how it makes me feel. Guys, I am talking about my eternal love “ Mehndi “ and I got myself a mehndi tattoo done just this evening. It’s so beautiful that I can’t stop raving about it.

Mehndi is a natural dye obtained from mehndi leaves and used extensively in India and other South Asian countries. In older times, grandmothers used to finely grind mehndi leaves at home themselves but nowadays it’s freely available in variety of packaged forms. Even ready-made cones are now available for easy application.

“Nothing lasts forever, not even cold November rain”: Guns and Roses. So yeah, as much as, I am loving my mehndi/henna body art, I know it’ll fade away. But then again, I am too timid to go through the needling ordeal to get permanent tattoo’s done, so I am not complaining. Besides, since mehndi does not entail a lifetime commitment, its more fun because that gives you the freedom of choosing new designs each time. Depending on the quality and strength of the henna dye used, the tattoos usually fade away in seven to fourteen days.

Mehndi Tattoos are pretty, intricate, artistic designs done onto the body with a henna dye. Designs are sketched using a cone filled with mehndi paste, which is obtained by mixing mehndi powder in just the right amount of water. The designs are darkest green in shade when applied and turn more towards black once they are dried. And when you wash it off, the color of your final tattoo ranges from dark orange to the deepest shade of maroon, depending on how long did you let it stay.

Since time immemorial, mehndi has been an integral part of Indian tradition. It is favorite with not just married women, but unmarried women, college goer’s, teenagers and even little girls are all crazy about it. It symbolizes beauty, elegance, sanctity, festivity and celebration. It is widely used all over India on several occasions like weddings, major Indian festivals like Teej, Diwali, Rakhi, Bhai Dooj, Karva chauth etc.

Designs vary from occasion to occasion. There are simpler designs like just having a big dot in the center of the palm and covering just the fingertips. This form is called “ dorsal” and being relatively simpler, can be mastered even by amateurs. There are Arabic designs that mainly consist of outlines of leaves, veins and flowers and the shapes therein are not filled. These are simpler and less time consuming too. We also have African designs which are mainly geometrical patterns consisting of lines, squares and dots. The space between the lines is not as much as there is in Arabic designs and so these designs cover your hands, arms like a fine net and look very exotic. Then we have these very fine, artistic, detail oriented complex Indian and Pakistani designs that are sketched on special occasions like weddings. Such designs are hard to master and it takes hours just to finish one hands design.

In India, since centuries, brides-to-be get mehndi done onto their hands and feet before their wedding night. The design is intricate and extensive. It takes several hours, and during this special period, female friends and relatives and other near and dear ones of the bride sing and dance on wedding songs while the older ladies of the family offer advice to the bride-to-be so as to prepare her for her happily wedded life. It is also a common practice that the groom’s initials are hidden somewhere within the design pattern and he then must find them before the couple consummates their marriage on the wedding night. In many parts of India, it is followed that once the bride is at her In-laws place after marriage, she is not supposed to do any household chores until the mehndi wears off.

Apart from fancy body art designs, mehndi is also known to be a natural conditioner for hair. Also, being a natural dye, it’s a good substitute for chemical laden hair colors. It covers all gray hair and gives an exotic auburn color to your mane. So, if you fancy redheads, this is a all natural way to get there!

It is because of its popularity as a symbol of love and grace, many families in the Indian sub-continent name their girls as Hina/mehndi.

Foreign connection
Mehndi no longer remains just an Indian phenomenon. It is a popular trend in parts of North Africa and Middle Eastern countries as well. And off- late this elegant body art has found acceptance and admiration in the western countries also. It is a trendsetter having followers and fans all around the globe. Big time fashionistas who tread away from minimalism and endorse drama, trendy young people obsessed with body art, ethically inspired populace have contributed towards the popularity of the lacy henna designs all over the world. Celebrities like Madona, Demi Moore, Neve Campbell, Gwen Stefani and many more have adorned this art form.

If anyone of you out there hasn’t yet gotten it done on you, I plead you to try it. I can bet you are going to thank me for this.

Author: Richa Arora

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