Henna is a historical part of India, Middle Eastern Asia and Africa. Yet, most cultures and religions of the world use henna, all in their unique ways. According to some scholars, henna’s introduction to India is as recent as the 15th century AD. By the 17th century, the barber’s wife became responsible for designing the henna on the women. The Mughals are noted to be responsible for the introduction, and its spread. Another school of thought note that Henna had been in use about 5000 years ago in North Africa and the Middle East. However, another school argues that Vatsyayana, the scholar who wrote the Kama Sutra, in the third century, cited the henna as one of the arts needed to please and seduce their significant other hence the existence of henna in ancient times.
Hennas are made from dyes created from trees under the Lawsonia genus, the henna tree is also popularly known as Lawsonia inermis.
Interestingly, Indians claim that when used on the hair with coconut oil, it prevents dandruff, greying and hair loss. In some parts of India, it is believed that if white henna flowers are picked by moonlight, the picker will have a good night sleep so long as it is placed under a pillow.
Another name for Henna body tattoos is “Mehndi.” Hindu brides are always adorned with henna tattoos. Henna tattoos symbolise joy, beauty, spiritual awakening and offering.
Getting a mehndi adorned on your palms and feet means much more than a basic tradition, as it is marked as the symbol of” solah shringar” which means the” auspicious mark.”
If you have ever been to a traditional wedding setting in India or seen one, you would notice how henna plays a significant role in their marital bliss.
The night before the wedding, a Mehndi ceremony takes place. All the guests from both families gather in the home of where the bride and the groom will live, in all dressed in an attire called the “binalli” while the bride puts on a red veil. According to their belief, the darker the henna the more love develops in their marriage. Either a Mehndi artist or a relative applies intricate designs on the bride’s palms and feet while the names of the groom are somewhere hidden in the mehndi designs.
The person who does the design must be someone who is happily married, so the bride also would have a happy home. This is done to attract good luck and spirits, health and prosperity. The reddish-brown colour is what is said to attract prosperity. As such, doing the Mehndi design is compulsory. This ceremony is also called the “Rasm-e-Henna ” in Pakistan.
Furthermore, designs used to adorn the palms of the couple are very intricate and are a reflection of what they hope for in their marriage. In recent times, the groom also adorns mehndi to attract happiness and success into their marriage.
Some of the intricate and most popular designs are the mandala flower, the peacock design and the flower design.
Mandala flower: These are powerful symbols in Indian culture signifying prosperity, wealth, success and courage. This is the most commonly drawn design and this blesses the bride with a balanced life.
The Peacock design: Highlights vision, self-expression, awakening, integrity, freedom, guidance, protection and watchfulness. The bride with peacock designs is blessed with long life and beauty for herself and her future children.
The Flower designs: Indicate beauty, happiness, joy and sensuality and it is the favourite of most young brides depending on the type of flower drawn. A lotus flower, for example, symbolises purity, divine beauty and a woman’s connection to her soul.