The history of henna is as rich and colorful as the beautiful patterns that it makes. The use of Mehendi for cosmetic purposes originated in Egypt where people dyed their hands and nails. It has since been practiced in over 60 countries around the world for over 5000 years. Henna powder comes from a plant called lawsonia inermis. The leaves are dried and crushed into a powder. By mixing the powder with Tea tree oil, Lavender oil (or any essential oil that contains tannins) and lemon juice you get a paste which is put onto the skin. As people discovered the cooling properties of Henna , applying Mehendi on the skin and hair served as a natural coolant especially for people living in hot regions. When applied to the skin, it stains the top layers.
Mehndi was introduced to India in the 12th century, by the Mughals. At first, it was only used by the rich and ruling families. Eventually, it was liked and used by everyone. As more people started using mehndi, the recipes became more refined and the patterns more intricate.
There are actually many uses of henna – It can be used as a deodorant because of the cooling effect that it has on the skin. It can also be used as an antiseptic and an astringent and applied to bruises and sprains, and is also often used to color hair and beards. It also acts as a natural sun block
In India of course the Mehendi is synonymous with weddings and even festivals, and vrats such as Karva Chauth. The Mehendi ceremony is an exciting pre-wedding ritual. The ceremony has been prevalent since ages and has become an integral part of the wedding celebrations. Whats’ more, Mehendi is one of the sixteen adornments of the Hindu bride and her beauty is considered incomplete without it.
The Mehendi Ritual is held before the wedding and according to rituals the bride is not supposed to step out of the house after this ceremony. The Mehendi ceremony itself can be a private affair with family and close friends. However, today a number of families opt to have a grand celebration inviting guests in large numbers for the Mehendi ceremony as well. To apply the Mehendi a skilled Mehendi expert is called who applies Mehendi on the bride’s hands, arms, feet and legs. Owing to Bangalore’s cosmopolitan nature combined with the increasing number of South Indian families opting for a mehendi ceremony these days, bangalore is home to many skilled Mehendi artists.
Symbols and Symbolism in Mehendi – The intricate patterns that adorn the hands and feet speak volumes and are home to mysterious tales and messages. Let’s demystify some of the common designs.
Palm – Designs range from the sun, flower or Mandala usually are an indication of opening and offering.
Back of the Hand – Patterns generally symbolize closing and protection.
Basic Patterns and what they mean-
Point (Bindu) – The Supreme Reality
Seed (Bija) – The mysterious matrix in which everything emanates and merges. All symbols begin with the seed.
Pointing up (Shiva) – Signifies active male principle. Resting on its base it represents fire, and the ascent to heaven.
Pointing down (Shakti) – Signifies active female principle. Reflects all that is feminine-water, fertile valleys, and grace descending from heaven.
Six Point Star (Satkona) – Signifies union of feminine and masculine principles.
Square (Catuskona) – Stability and order. Implies honesty, dependability, and shelter.
Diamond (Vajra) – Enlightenment.
Pentagram (Pancakona) – The 5 sections symbolize elements of fire, water, earth, air, and heavens.
Circle (Cakra) – Whole, perfect, infinite.
Mandalas – Concentric forms relating to a center point. By concentrating on a mandala the viewer penetrates the many layers of reality and moves towards an inner truth.
Flowers – Joy and happiness.
Lotus Flower – The awakening of the human soul. Grace, beauty, sensuality, femininity, and purity.
Sahasrara ~thousand-petal lotus~ uniting the soul with the ‘Divine Source’
Sun, Moon,and Stars- Deep and lasting love between lovers/partners.
Vines – Devotion and perseverance, invoking both tenderness and vitality.
Peacock (Mayura)~ Companion while separated from a loved one.
Swan (Hamsa) – Success.
Scorpion (Bicchu) – Romance, its sting is analogous to Cupid’s arrow.
Water – Human emotion.
Raindrops (Bundakis) – Love and affection of a woman.
Waves (Lahariya) – Deep passion and ecstasy.
Combining the rich tradition of the Mehendi ceremony with the prospect of having a fun get-together with close family and friends is an oppurtunity most families these days make use of. With a legacy of over thousands of years the “Mehendi Ceremony”, “Mehendi ki Raat” or “Henna Night” is definitely here to stay – so choose among Rajasthani Mehendi , Arabic mehendi or even Crystal Mehendi and add to it a large measure of music and dancing- you can opt for the traditional Dholak beats or the various numbers that good old Bollywood has to offer and you’ll have yourself a night your guests won’t forget.