Mehndi is the art of henna painting on the
body and it has been practiced in different countries like India,
Africa, and the Middle East, where the henna plant is believed to bring
love and good fortune, and to protect against evil. Mehndi is
traditionally practiced for wedding ceremonies, during important rites
of passage, and in times of joyous celebration.
Mehndi is widely accepted as a form of spiritual celebration and worship
as well as common cosmetic. Oppi Untract, an author and expert on ethnic
Indian adornment, states, “by adorning the visible, material body, women
also seek to satisfy a universal longing for the embellishment of its
intangible counterpart, the human spirit.1” A woman’s first application
of mehndi is around the time of her first menstruation. It transforms
her from a virgin child to a seductress—this is when she is taught the
“arts of love,” and begins to prepare herself for marriage.2 Mehndi is
listed in the Kama Sutra as one of the 64 arts for women.
paste is made from the crushed leaves of the henna plant is applied
to the skin, and when removed several hours later, leaves beautiful
markings on the skin that fade naturally over 1 to 3 weeks. Besides
being the key ingredient in mehndi, henna has also been used to dye
the manes and hooves of horses, and to color wool, silk, and animal
skins, as well as men's beards. Studies of mummies dating back to
1200 BC show that henna was used on the hair and nails of the
As far back as 1200 B.C. the ancient
Egyptians were using henna on their nails and hair. Henna was also used
to dye animal skins, textiles, and men's beards. It was many hundreds of
years ago when the application of henna to a woman’s hands and feet
first assumed the form of an intricate ritual. Henna is a good omen to
be used during auspicious occasions such as weddings and religious
festivals, births and naming ceremonies, circumcisions, birthdays and
henna plant's cooling properties were discovered, painting the skin
became a way for the desert people of India to cool down their body
temperatures. Until the art of mehndi became hot news in 1996, henna
was mostly used in the United States as a hair dye. Widely
recognized now as a wonderful way to dye the skin and to achieve the
look of a tattoo, traditional henna uses and application processes
have gone contemporary.
artist covers the bride’s hands and feet with flowers, curly
arabesques, paisleys, mangos and vines. The lotus flower, a
frequently used mehndi design, is an important symbol of purity in
Hinduism and Buddhism. The peacock, the national bird of India, is
another traditional Indian motif. The groom’s initials will often be
hidden in the design. It is believed that if he is unable to find
them, the bride will be the dominant force in the marriage.
Indian women believe that the darker the color of the henna stain,
the deeper the mother-in-law’s love for the new bride will be. The
new bride will not have to perform any household chores before the
design has disappeared. One old wives’ tale describes a cunning
young girl who secretly reapplied the henna each night so her stain
never wore off.
Preparation of Mehndi:
To prepare Mehndi, the leaves are dried and ground into a fine
powder. This powder is then mixed with a variety of oils and tea
(Boil black tea (2 bags) for at least 15 minutes - this will be
added to the henna powder) or water.(Use bottled or distilled water
if possible, otherwise tap water contains chlorine).
After 15 minutes add two teaspoons
of instant coffee - let stand for 5 minutes then mix. Now you will
mix your henna powder with your tea / coffee water.
Use 1/2 teaspoon of fresh lemon juice per 1 tablespoon of henna powder
when mixing. Mix the henna powder to a consistency of toothpaste, just
thick enough so it will not run but not so thick as to not penetrate
your skin. Only mix what you think you will need.
This forms a thick paste which is then filled into a cone and used to
apply on the hands or feet. The paste is a dark green, from the color of
the leaves. The paste dries after an hour and forms a hard crust. To
keep the crust on, another paste of lemon and sugar is added. This helps
the Mehndi to stick ot the hand and stay on a longer time. The longer
the Mehndi stays on, the darker the color. Colors for Mehndi can vary
from a deep brown to a light orange. They slowly fade away. Mehndi can
last from 5-10 days.
Henna stains the top layer of your skin so it is important to prepare
the skin properly. You should wash application area well with soap and
warm water and dry thoroughly. Try to keep your hands as warm as