Indian Culture

Importance of Mehndi or Heena in Indian Culture

What is Heena or Mehndi

Henna is a small flowering shrub that has many uses. The fragrant flowers are used to create perfume, and the leaves are dried and then turned into a fine powder that’s used for dying clothes, hair and temporarily dying the skin.

About Heena Plant

The plant, scientifically known as Lawsonia inermis has been around for at least 5,000 years. Its exact origin has been difficult to place. It has been claimed by historians that the Mongols brought Henna to India in the 12th century while others say it originated there. Then again they also say it originated in North Africa and the Middle East since ancient times. Archeologists have discovered that Henna was used on Egyptians prior to mummification when they started to find mummies with stained fingers and toes. Henna has only recently been introduced to the West. Many celebrities have made it popular and a noticed art form in America and Europe.

Twice a year the leaves are harvested, dried, and ground into a fine powder. This powder is used to dye hair red and for the ancient eastern art of mehndi. Henna contains hennotannic acid, a dye that bonds with the collagen in skin cells and keratin of fingernails and hair, leaving behind a red coloring.

Importance of Mehndi in Indian culture

Mehndi holds a lot of cultural significance in Indian traditions. Be it weddings, Karva Chauth or other occasions, mehndi plays an important role in all the ceremonies and festivals of India. In todays era of modernization, the new styles and designs of mehndi are coming up, adding glamour and fun to it.Weddings being the most important day in ones life, mehndi has become an ornament for the soon to be brides. There is, in fact, one whole ceremony dedicated to its celebration popularly known as Mehndi Ceremony or Mehndi Ki Raat. Besides this, the phrase Haath Peele Karna as often heard from elders of the family is a rasam of mehndi directly synonymous to marriage. This significance maybe attributed to symbolic meaning of mehndi i.e. fertility.Mehndi Ceremony is among the pre wedding rituals in Indian weddings performed a day prior to the marriage.

Mehndi-Ki-Raat During Marriage 

Just as Haldi ceremony symbolizes cleanliness, mehndi signifies beautification. Mehndi-Ki-Raat is usually a private affair with close relatives, friends and family members, celebrated amidst lot of dancing and feasting. This ritual is often combined with Sangeet ceremony and so is primarily a womens function. The atmosphere is imbued with dholak beats and singing of traditional songs while mehndi is applied on brides hands and legs by mehndi experts. The brides mehndi interweaves the name of her would be husband and he is expected to find his name in the pattern. The female relatives of the family also apply mehndi on their palms to take part in the celebrations.

This ceremony is performed by families of both the Indian bride and the Indian groom.Even the color of mehndi is given high importance in Indian culture as the darkness of the color signifies the degree of husbands and mother-in-laws love. It depicts love and affection between the couple as it is believed that the longer it retains, the more auspicious it is. The bride is traditionally not allowed to work in her husbands home until her mehndis color fades away completely.Mehndi is applied on all the important occasions, festivals and vrats(fasts) in Hindu culture. It is important in festivals such as Karwa Chauth, Rakhi, Diwali etc. It is also considered as a shagun mostly denoted by the pattern of large dot in the centre of the hand with four smaller dots at the sides.

In order to make this conventional trend of henna application more exciting, fashionable and fun filled, there is a vast variety of mehndi designs available today. Arabic Mehndi, Rajasthani Mehndi, Crystal Mehndi, Tattoo Mehndi, etc along with the traditional Indian Mehndi are among the most popular styles of mehndi currently. Mehndi designs majorly consist of floral patterns, religious symbols, etc. while adding beauty and uniqueness to each design applied.

Heena Leaves Paste and Cone Process

Powder from the henna plant can be fine or coarse. Stains from henna powder made into paste are the result of the dye in the henna powder releasing when added to water or lemon juice and then applied to the skin or hair.

The mehndi is applied using either a plastic cone or a paintbrush to create a series of beautiful patterns especially on the individual’s hands. The paste is then left to dry for at least 15 to 20 minutes. The paste will slowly dry and crack after which it can be removed. For those who wish to make the mehndi design darker, a mixture of lemon juice and white sugar can be used to remoisten the henna. The Mehndi designer will then wrap the painted area in tissue to trap the body heat ensuring it stains darker. One can also use moisturizing creams and oils to allow the mehndi to last for longer.

Varieties of Heena Designs

There is hardly any woman in India who is not fond of applying henna. Ladies have been fascinated with various henna styles and designs for generations now. Occasions and events are just excuses for ladies to celebrate and apply mehndi. The craze for henna is such that women not only apply it on their feet and palm but have also started having glittering designs on their backs, shoulders, etc. The most thrilling part, when it comes to mehndi designs, is that there are countless designs and styles available to choose from.

If you are a henna lover and are looking out to find the most popular henna design styles, here is your guide. Find below some of the most the most commonly used henna designs and styles worldwide​

Indian Mehndi

These set of mehndi designs are a collection of simple as well as complex designs. Where simple designs in this category have a big dot or figure on the back of hand or center, the complex ones flaunt detailed and fine patterns and outlines. Some common patterns and designs used in the Indian mehndi style include flowers and peacocks with elaborated curves and curls. It generally doesn’t have much space in between and is packed with designs.

Arabic Mehndi

Arabic mehndi style designs are way simpler as compared to Indian mehndi designs. Instead of having filled patterns and space, Arabic mehndi design generally boasts decorative outlines of flowers, vines, and leaves. This design does not cover your hand completely. It covers partially and consumes less henna paste in the process. One can easily master this style with basic knowledge and interest.

Pakistani Mehndi

This mehndi style is a blend of Indian and Arabic mehndi designs. It takes a lot of time to apply this pattern and has a perfect balance of flowery, paisley and geometric designs. As these patterns are generally complex, they are worn by brides on weddings or special occasions.

Moroccan Mehndi

These designs are inspired from the middle-east and have more of geometric patterns. It includes different types and sizes of squares, rectangles, and triangles fused together. To make it more captivating, one can draw flowery patterns too around the geometric figures. This design is gaining a lot of popularity among mehndi lovers as it can be applied anywhere on the hands, legs, shoulder, neck, and back.

Egyptian Mehndi

Diverse designs and patterns of henna have been noticed on Egyptian mummies. A glimpse mythology and great history can be seen in this type of mehndi style. One can draw a lot of dragons, fire, and pythons to create Egyptian mehndi design.

Glitter Mehndi

This mehndi style has been taken up by many people today for the modern touch it carries. It showcases attractive mehndi designs with sparkles and glitters. It is basically a traditional mehndi design with a modern twist.

Medicinal Properties of Heena

Henna or Mehndi is also known worldwide for its medicinal properties.It is considered an herb from a plant of the privet family and has long been known to have healing qualities.It is used topically and usually not ingested or inhaled. It is used as a cosmetic in earlier times due to its therapeutic features. Mehndi is widely adopted around the world as a conditioner and dye for hair by both men and women. It is a natural dye that renders a beautiful color on hair and creates a lustrous look. Also, mehndi is popular for its cooling effects, thus, used in hot climates in India and other countries. It can also help in lowering body temperature and soothe headaches, fevers, burning feet and even hysteria or a violent temper. It can increase the luster of nails, is effective in muscular rigidity and even in Jaundice.

Another use of henna would be to apply it to goat skin bags, after they have been salt-cured.  It “insect-proofs” or “moth-proofs” the bags by making the skin poisoned or inedible.