The art of henna (called mehndi or mehendi in Hindi and Urdu) has been practiced in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East for over 5000 years. Some documents date it to over 9,000 years old. Henna has a natural cooling effect, so desert dwellers have used it for centuries to regulate their body temperature. They crushed the dried leaves of the henna plant into a paste, which they soaked in their palms and soles for a cooling effect. As long as the henna stain remains on your skin, you can feel its cooling sensation all over your body. When this stain first disappeared, it left a pattern on the surface of the skin, giving rise to the idea of creating a pattern for decorative purposes. Even mummies wore henna motifs in ancient Egypt, and Cleopatra herself is recorded using henna for decorative purposes.
Henna was a popular body accessory not only for the rich, but also for the poor who could not afford jewelry.
Weddings and Other Henna Traditions
Henna is traditionally used in Africa, Pakistan, India and the Middle East for holidays, henna art birthdays, weddings and other special occasions. The most popular tradition is the mehendi (henna) night, when the bride and her family, relatives and friends gather to celebrate their upcoming wedding. The night is filled with games, music and dance performances that may have been rehearsed months before the event by those closest to the bride. Brides, on the other hand, have extensive henna patterns on their limbs, reaching down to their elbows and sometimes their knees. Bridal patterns can take hours and are often created by multiple henna-her artists. As a rule, guests also receive small motifs (tattoos) on the back of their hands.
Modern brides prefer to get their henna done before their mehndi night so they can enjoy the celebration and still have a darker henna on their wedding day.
According to tradition, as long as the henna stain remains on the bride, she does not have to do any housework. It is said that the darker the dirt, the better the relationship between husband and wife, and the better the mother-in-law. So you can imagine why brides want their blemishes to be as dark and long-lasting as possible.
Temporary Henna Tattoos
For body decoration, the leaves of the henna plant are dried, ground into a fine powder and processed into a creamy paste using various techniques. When this paste is applied to the skin, only the top layer of skin is discolored. In its natural state, it colors the skin orange or brown. It looks dark green (or dark brown with some henna) when applied, but this green paste flakes off, leaving an orange stain. After 1-3 days of use, the dirt will turn reddish brown. The palms and soles of the feet have the thickest skin and contain the most keratin, so they are the darkest. Henna gets darker the farther it is from the hands and feet. The face is usually the area most prone to discoloration.
Henna works on all skin types and tones. Dark skin looks just as good as fair skin, but some people are more tolerant of pigments than others, so it may be noticeable on one skin and not as noticeable on another. Still, henna is a symbol of beauty, art, and happiness, and is meant for everyone.
Source: Silk n Stone