Henna or mendhi is an ancient art form, originating thousands of years ago and connected to fertility celebrations, erotic rituals and goddess cultures. Designs made from henna paste were believed to bring good luck, ward off evil spirits and promote fertility. It’s no wonder that its application is an important pre-wedding tradition of brides in the Arab world and beyond.
Henna is a fine ground powder made from the leaves, flowers and twigs of Lawsonia Enermis, a plant which grows throughout the Middle East, India and parts of Africa. The powder is mixed with hot water along with various oils as well as other plants, such as tea, coffee, indigo and cloves.
The final color is controlled by the additions to the henna and the length of time it’s allowed to dry before it’s washed off. Tradition holds that the darker the stain, the more the bride will be cherished by her new husband and his family.
However, the application of henna is also medicinal. Henna is antiseptic, improves blood circulation and protects general health. The application of henna paste cools the hands and feet and relaxes the bride-to-be during a stressful time.
While the ceremony of the mendhi application is just as important now as it ever was, patterns applied today are slowly evolving; brides are now incorporating Indo-Arabic designs into the traditional Indian patterns. And it’s becoming popular to hide the groom’s name in the design, which he then needs to find after the ceremony. [wink wink]