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What You Need to Know About Mehndi

Mehndi parties are one of the most exciting (and important!) celebrations that can precede a South Asian wedding.

Students should research how mehndi designs vary across cultures. Students should document their findings and present them to small groups for discussion before sharing it with the entire class. Allow each group time to present its research before moving onto other projects.

Origins

Henna is a plant with natural cooling properties, and people living in hot desert areas would make a paste from crushed dried leaves and soak their hands and feet in it to cool off in the heat. They would also use it as a dye on hair, fingernails, leather and silk fabrics; lawsone is found within its molecules which when mixed with other ingredients creates rich temporary colors that only last temporarily.

Archeologists have discovered mummies with henna applied to their hands and feet. Henna has been used artistically, ceremonially, ritually and artistically for more than 5,000 years throughout Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East for artistic, ritualistic and ceremonial reasons.

Mehndi design is traditionally applied to brides on their wedding day as an auspicious symbol of good luck and wealth, believed to protect against evil spirits while providing wealth and prosperity to both partners. Mehndi also symbolizes love and marital bliss.

Symbolism

Henna has long been used as a natural cooling agent in Pakistan, India, and Africa’s desert areas, where people would soak their hands and feet in the paste to help regulate summer heat.

Mehndi ceremonies typically occur the day before weddings. Families gather together to honor this important event. Henna artists and relatives apply intricate designs on the bride’s hands and feet with darker colors representing increased love between partners.

Mehndi color can also provide insight into how well brides will get along with the family of their new husbands, as well as show acceptance between themselves and their future mother-in-laws. Motifs such as peacocks, flowers, elephants and many modern designs even include cartoon characters to make unique pieces.

Preparation

Mehndi leaves are dried, ground, and sieved to create a fine green powder, then combined with water, lemon juice and drops of eucalyptus oil for maximum infusion before being stored overnight in plastic cones to be used as mehndi application material.

Mehndi parties should be lively events with festive decor that conveys this excitement. Some ideas include creating a flower-filled backdrop, vivid colors and live performers along with unique touches such as rickshaws or bikes as decoration elements.

Mehndi parties often include dance performances by the bride’s family and friends as part of her mehndi stain ceremony, adding some entertainment and setting everyone in the mood for wedding festivities. Historically, mehndi stain was thought to symbolize how much love the bride would receive from her new spouse and in-laws; more intricate her henna designs equalled more affection she would receive in return.

Application

Mehndi artists utilize various tools to make their job simpler and more effective, including application bottles with tips, syringes, toothpicks and application bottles with tips to apply mehndi more evenly across lines or pick up any excess mehndi that strayed off their designs. Furthermore, fine needles and various sizes of tweezers come in handy for applying small dots or making adjustments in design shape.

Before meeting with your mehndi artist to design your mehndi design, it is advisable to discuss it (preferably in person) to provide them with an idea of your desired look and speed up the application process and avoid any potential confusion over where or how to begin the application.

As for mehndi application, sitting still during application will help prevent smudges. If necessary, move carefully when moving around to prevent spreading of mehndi. Also avoid drinking liquids during this step to speed up drying times and enable faster designs. When your designs have set properly and dried completely, create a sugar and lemon solution and seal your designs – this will extend its longevity and deepen in color over time.

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