Madonna’s done it, Liv Tyler’s done it…heck, even Joe Schmo down the street has probably tried it once! No, we’re not talking about some kinky fetish here; we’re actually referring to mehndi. Mehndi, mehendi, or henna, as it is more popularly called, has become quite the rage ever since Hollywood and the entertainment industry embraced it around the mid-1990s.
However, while people of the west have only recently awakened to this new ‘fad’, we mustn’t forget that it isn’t really new at all. In fact, the art of henna has practically been around since this side of forever. Henna truly is an ancient body art, and has been used for centuries in creating ethnic and exotic patterns on various parts of the female body, though traditionally, of course, applied to the hands and feet of women prior to special ceremonies – such as weddings.
Henna, without a doubt, has become an essential feature of every Asian bride’s makeup. This much we probably all know. However, what many may not understand is the rich history of henna and its varied applications.
Henna is a fantastic natural product, a plant, whose leaves are ground to make a powder, which is subsequently blended to a fine paste – creating luscious mehndi. The ingredient in the plant that makes the dye is known as ‘Lawsonia Inermis’. Since it is wholly natural, there are no side effects to worry about.
It is interesting to note that henna art has more than one origin. The plant was discovered and used in many different places across its natural habitat, from as far back as 5000 BC. Archaeological and anthropological evidence indicates that henna traditions had early roots in the eastern coast of the Mediterranean, Libya, Tunisia, Arabia, Persia, and India. Its multiplicity of origin is evidenced by the fact that Henna is the original Persian name, while Mehndi is the Indian name given to the plant mixture. These traditions often merged through cultural transmission, and at times they became more innovative during periods of prosperity and leisure. Whatever the case, the tradition never withered away.
Hence, the use of henna thrives today not only in Asia, but in the Middle East and North Africa as well. It’s fairly easy to see the appeal. Painless, temporary tattoos – traditional yet innovative, and fun…and have we mentioned painless yet? No needles, just a simple, natural paste, and – voila! – the result is a beautiful, ornate decoration steeped in thousands of years of tradition yet new to you!
The key word for any bride to consider, where henna is concerned, is variety. Remember, there is choice out there, and plenty of it. So be adventurous. The number of gorgeous henna patterns and styles on offer to the modern bride are endless. Take advantage of this fact.
The first and foremost decision you’ll need to make is regarding the application itself. Most brides today prefer to have their henna applied by trained professionals. This is without question an excellent idea and highly recommended, for it will not only conserve your precious time, and save you from the hassle of finding an aunt or cousin who may or may not be able to do a halfway decent job, but moreover going to a professional will ensure that the end result is highly desirable.
Once you’ve crossed this little bridge, keep in mind that there is no one way, or right way, to apply henna. There are a thousand ways, each best for a particular skin tone, situation, etc. Similarly, every henna artist is unique, and therefore, has his or her favorite henna mixes and tools.
A note of caution should be added here. While it’s all very well to have faith in your henna artist, try not to be entirely clueless either. And by this, we mean that you must have some basic idea of the kind of style you want, otherwise there’s every possibility of getting carried away in the myriad of choices available, ranging from traditional Indian to the very popular Arabic designs. Just make sure whatever pattern you eventually settle for actually goes with the look of your outfit and jewelry.
Again, the great thing about henna is the sheer variety. Bridal henna designs today are no longer confined to the dye itself, but include ornamental tattoos, navel tattoos, and ankle tattoos. And, to top it all off, there are fabulous henna accessories now available. These include some really innovative ideas, such as body jewels, stencils, and the latest rage: henna pens. These trimmings are easily accessible in most henna shops, and on your big day, be sure to try at least some of them! You won’t regret it.
The truly wonderful aspect about a bride and her henna is that it’s definitive and distinctive – of her and her alone. After all, no Asian bride worth her salt is ever complete without the rich hues of henna gracing her beautiful hands and feet. It’s one of those glorious traditions that make her so very unique, so very special
Article written by Batool Mehdi for Shaadi Style Magazine (www.shaadistyle.com), the premiere South Asian wedding and fashion magazine for today’s modern woman. Shaadi Style Magazine is dedicated to providing our readership with timely editorial information on bridal and party fashions, jewelry, catering, DJs and photography, as well as arming them with the resources they need to plan their dream wedding with a traditional flair. More importantly it is about how to combine those traditional values and customs with your 21st Century life.