Girls and women folk in India rush to decorate their hands and feet with Mehndi or Henna in pretty designs during weddings and other celebrations. This traditional Indian herbal art form, which is applied on bare skin, symbolizes celebration, happiness and beauty.

While it is widely used in India, Pakistan, Africa and Arabian countries since olden times to decorate hands, legs, shoulders, back and chest, this 7,000-year-old art form is said to have originated from ancient Indian subcontinent.  It is traditionally applied during weddings, religious events, traditional ceremonies and celebrations. But, today, this eastern practice is adopted worldwide and popularized as a fashion statement.

Often Mehndi are applied by professional henna artists. Here are few things you may like to know about this glorious form of art.

  • The paste of dark green Mehndi, which colour today is popularly identified as “Mehndi green”, are made of leaves of henna plant.
  • The leaves are dried and crushed into fine powder and made into creamy paste by adding water.
  • The henna paste is applied on skin with the help of a plastic cone, and beautiful designs are created and are made to dry for an hour.
  • When the paste starts drying and begins to crack, a mixture of lemon juice and sugar is applied over the henna design to re-moisten it so that henna will stain darker.
  • The mehndi area is covered with a plastic wrapper to lock in the body heat to create more intense colour on the skin. It is worn for five to six hours.
  • When the henna is removed, the mehndi colour appears pale or dark orange. The stain darkens through oxidation over the course of 24 to 72 hours. 
  • The final colour is reddish brown that can last for two to four weeks depending upon the care a person does to last it for long.
  • Moisturising the hands with natural oils like coconut, olive or sesame oil extends the duration of the stain. These days, glitters and stones are also used to decorate mehndi designs for that glamorous look.

Types: This art form can be categorized as Arabic mehndi, Indian mehndi and Pakistani mehndi. All the three forms look absolutely stunning.

Warning: Wanting to make it look like a tattoo, some people add synthetic dye-p-phenylenediamine (PPD) to henna to give it a black colour. PPD may cause serious skin allergies.

Uses: Mehndi has medicinal qualities. It has natural cooling properties. People of the deserts have been using henna to cool down their bodies for centuries. It is used for decorating body and to dye hair by a natural product having no side effects too.

Mehndi in weddings:  One of the most important traditions in Indian weddings is the ‘Mehndi Night’ where the bride, the groom, their relatives, family and friends get together to celebrate the wedding to come. The whole night they dance, enjoy music, play games like antakshari and get henna patterns done on their palms and feet. This generally takes place on the night prior to the wedding day.

The bride gets extensive henna patterns done on her hands till her elbows or shoulders and feet that go up to her knees. The bridal patterns take hours and are often done by multiple skilled henna artists. Tradition holds that for as long as the henna stain appears on the hands, the bride does not have to do any household work. Also it is believed that the darker the stain, the better will be the marriage and more will she be loved by her husband. So every bride does her best to get the colour as dark as possible.

However, one needn’t wait for any occasion to get mehndi done on your hands or feet. It can be done any time without an occasion too. Putting henna is itself a celebration and gives immense pleasure. Now be set to pamper your hands and feet more than ever before. How about you get your manicure and pedicure done next time, think about putting mehndi and make your hands and feet more eye catching.