Mehendi is derived from the Sanskrit word ‘Mendhika’. Hindu Vedic texts reveal that it was a custom to use mehendi before an important religious ritual. It is the symbolic representation of the inner and outer sun. Since, Vedic customs are based on the idea ‘awakening the inner light.’
Mehendi is the local name for henna designs in the Indian subcontinent, since the idea of using henna to decorate hands originated in Arabia. Though the whole concept of mehendi is borrowed from other countries, it still has the Indian touch to it.
Mehendi represents Indian culture, it is extensively used in decorating hands and feet during weddings and every other auspicious occasion you can think off!
Recommended Video: Indian Mehndi Designs
How to Make Henna Paste?
Henna tree is also called the Egyptian Privet or Mignonette tree. It is a flowering plant that belongs to the species of Lawsonia Genus. The name ‘henna’ is derived from the Arabic word ‘Hinna’. Henna is a tall shrub that is indigenous to North Africa, Western and Southern Asia, Northern Australasia, semi-arid zones and tropical countries. The plant produces the maximum dye when cultivated in temperatures within 35 to 45 degree centigrade and also during monsoons.
The compound Lawsone present in the henna leaf is the actual dye. If you use whole henna leaves you will not get any colour. When fresh henna leaves are mashed along with some mild acidic liquid then the Lawsone molecules are released. The molecules bind the proteins in the skin thus leaving behind the beautiful red colour.
Henna is usually sold as a dry powder made by drying, milling and sifting the leaves. The henna powder has to be blended with lemon juice and strong tea and other liquids with acidic content to get the silky smooth consistency. It is best to leave the henna paste to rest for six to twenty four hours to release the dye. Essential oils with high levels of monoterpene alcohol like tea tree, lavender, Cajeput and Eucalyptus if added to the henna paste will give you a darkcolour. Now the paste is ready to be applied to your palms and feet to create intricate designs. When the paste has dried off, dab it with sugar and lemon juice solution to increase the intensity of the colour. Slowly, you will see the dried henna falling off from your hands leaving behind the orange hue, which will gradually become reddish brown. You can also scrape off the dried paste from the hand with a blunt edge of the knife. Be careful not to hurt yourself!
Avoid using soaps and chlorinated water as it hinders the darkening of the colour. Steaming or warming your hands post application helps to darken the colour. Always make the henna paste at home to create your tattoos and mehendi. This will prevent you from harsh chemicals that are used in the readymade cones sold in the market.
Historical use of Mehendi:
A detailed study of history reveals that henna was used in the Arab world for more than five thousand years. Woman not only used henna to decorate their hands and feet with intricate designs, they used it to ward off evil, bring good luck and prosperity to their homes.
There is a controversy regarding the origin of henna or mehendi as dyeing agent. Botanist believes that henna plant or Lawsonia Inermis originated in Egypt and was used in the mummification of pharaohs. Henna was used to dye the hair and nails of the dead pharaohs and was believed that this would bring them good fortune in their next life. Evidence shows that henna was passed on to India by Egypt as early as 700 A.D. and it was used to decorate hands and feet. Henna was also used for medicinal purposes and to dye hair, cloth, leather and manes of horses and furs of other animals.
Did you know that henna was used as a hair dye for almost 6,000 years? The daughters of pharaohs used henna to dye their hair red. It is said that opera singer Adelina Patti popularized the use of henna as a hair dye in Europe in 1800s.You can also apply the time-tested henna paste on your hair instead of the hair colours that have ammonia in it. Separate your hair strands and apply the paste with a brush while standing in front of the mirror. Make sure you don’t miss a single strand of hair. This will give you the desired colour and at the same time leave your hair velvety soft.
The Muslim tradition and religion makes the use of henna compulsory. The Sunnah (tradition of Prophet Mohammad) and Hadith (narration of the prophet) allows both men and women to use henna. Men use it to dye their hair and beards red. Women use henna to paint their finger nails and toe nails red. Henna in Muslim culture depicts feminity. Mehendi is done during joyous celebration like Eid, when the family gathers for a feast. The use of henna is prohibited during mourning in Islamic religious literature. In fact, the whole idea of mehendi originated in Muslim dominated Arabian countries and was gradually passed on to other cultures. The arrival of Islam in India popularized the henna culture among other communities and it also revived the use of henna that was popular in the Vedic ages with a new gusto!
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