Beautiful Henna - Enjoy
Beautiful Henna - Enjoy
By: Cik As

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Friday, 2-Feb-2007 03:48 Email | Share | | Bookmark
What is Mehndi?

Mehndi is the traditional art of adorning the hands and feet with a paste made from the finely ground leaves of the henna plant. The term refers to the powder and paste, and the design on the skin, as well as the party or ceremony. Henna is a small shrub called hawsonia inermis, and is also know as Henne, Al-Khanna, Al-henna, Jamaica Mignonette, Mendee, Egyptian Privet, and Smooth Lawsonia. Henna grows in hot climates and is found in India, Pakistan, Malaysia, Persia, Syria, Egypt, Morocco, Sudan and other North African, Asian and Middle Eastern countries. The leaves, flowers, and twigs are ground into a fine powder, then mixed with hot water. Various shades are obtainable by mixing with the leaves of other plants, such as indigo. Tea, coffee, cloves, tamarind, lemon, sugar, and various oils are also used to enhance the colour and longevity of design.

There is much speculation as to the first origin of the use of henna. What is known for sure is that henna has been used as a cosmetic, as well as for its supposed healing properties for at least 5000 years. Centuries of migration and cultural interaction has made it difficult to determine with absolute certainty where the tradition began. Some scholars claim that the earliest documentations of henna use are found in ancient Indian texts and images, indicating that mehndi as an art-form may have originated in ancient India. Others, however, state that the use of henna was taken to India by the Moguls in the 12th Century C.E., centuries after use in the Middle East and North Africa. Still others insist that the tradition of mehndi originated in North Africa and the Middle Eastern countries during ancient times. Henna use has also been documented in ancient Egypt, where it is known to have been used to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs prior to mummification. It is also possible that the similar use of henna for skin decoration in these regions arose independently and perhaps simultaneously, and this could account for the difficulty in pinpointing an exact birthplace of mehndi art.

The style of the art varies from country to country, spanning different cultures and religious traditions, and making it possible to recognize cultural distinctions. There are three main traditions that can be recognized, aside from the modern use of henna as a trendy temporary tattoo. Generally, Arabic (Middle-eastern) mehndi features large, floral patterns on hands and feet, while Indian (Asian) mendhi uses fine lines, lacy, floral and paisley patterns covering entire hands, forearms, feet and shins; and African mehndi art is large, and bold with geometrically patterned angles. African mehndi patterns often use black henna (potentially very toxic) while Asian and Middle Eastern mehndi is often reddish brown (or orange). It is also a common custom in many countries to step into the mehndi, or simply apply the paste without creating a pattern in order to cool, protect or treat the skin (sometimes referred to as a "henna-shoe").

While much of the tradition and symbolism around the use of mehndi has been lost over the generations, some traditions are still followed by some. In many eastern places, henna is thought to hold special medicinal or even magical properties. It is used to help heal skin diseases, condition and color the hair, as well as prevent thinning hair, and cools the skin to reduce swelling in hot climates. It is made into a beverage to heal headaches and stomach pain. Newly purchased homes in Morocco often have their doors painted with henna to wish for prosperity and chase away evil. Henna is used as a protection against the "evil eye". The foreheads of bulls, milk cows, and horses are sometimes decorated with henna for their protection. Tombstones in graveyards are sometimes washed with henna to please the sprits. Henna is used in celebrations of betrothals, weddings, births, circumcisions, religious holidays (similarly for Hindus, Muslims, Jews, Christians and other religions) and National festivals. A bride whose family has little money wears her mehndi in place of ornate gold jewellery. It is said that when a bride has mehndi done for her wedding, the darker the design, the more her mother-in-law loves her. A good deeply-coloured design is a sign of good luck for the marital couple. It is common for the names of the bride and groom to be hidden in the mehndi design; and the wedding-night cannot commence until the groom has found the names. A bride is not expected to perform any housework until her wedding mehndi has faded (and it is jokingly reputed that some lazy brides may secretly re-do their henna designs to prolong their leisure). While much of the symbolism of mehndi designs are being lost, some examples remain. The peacock, which is the national bird of India, the lotus flower, and an elephant with a raised trunk, which is a symbol of good luck, are all popular images.

In recent popular culture, mehndi has enjoyed a renewal. Western musicians and Hollywood personalities adopted and altered the tradition so that mehndi, as a temporary, pain-free body decoration alternative to tattooing grew to be seen as hottest new fashion accessory among women and men. As the trend grows in popularity, so grows the list of personalities who have been seen sporting mehndi patterns: actress Demi Moore, and the band ‘No Doubt's’ Gwen Stefani were among the first celebrities to been seen wearing mehndi; mehndi has been featured in countless magazines including Vanity Fair, Harper's Bazaar, Wedding Bells, People, and Cosmopolitan. The album No Quarter by Plant and Page features a picture of hands with mehndi in the inner CD jacket. Mehndi can be seen in the popular film Kama Sutra. The ever growing list of famous names of famous people who have been seen with mehndi includes: Madonna, Naomi Campbell, Nell McAndrew, Liv Tyler, "The Artist formerly known as Prince", Drew Barrymore, Mira Sorvino, Daryl Hannah, Kathleen Roberson, Laura Dern, Laurence Fishburne, and Angela Bassett.



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