We were just roaming in Civil Lines, Allahabad. my wife Jaya spotted some mehndi artists in front of El Chico restaurant. She got interested and sat with them for getting mehndi art done on her palms and hands.

Mehndi or Henna is a ceremonial art form which originated in ancient Subcontinent of India, in which decorative designs are created on a person’s body, using a paste, created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis).

Henna plant grows in the tropical climates of Africa, northern Australia, and southern Asia. Its leaves contain a pigment called lawsone which combines with proteins to cause staining. Because of this staining quality, Henna has been used throughout the ages to dye hair and create body art designs.

Mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā (मेन्धिका). Using mehndi for body art has been practiced for over 5000 years. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hindu Vedic ritual books. Haldi (staining oneself with turmeric paste) as well as Mehndi are Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centred on the idea of “awakening the inner light”.

It is thought that Mehndi originated in the deserts of India when the people living there discovered that covering their hands and feet with coloured paste from the Henna plant helped them to feel cooler. mehndi handIt wasn’t long until a creative individual began making intricate designs with the coloured paste instead of just smearing it on. The complexity of designs grew and began to take on meaning. Eventually brides began to decorate their feet and hands with henna as part of their wedding rituals.

Mehndi is a popular form of body art among the women of the Indian Subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East. It’s a time-honoured tradition among various cultures of the world. The intricate designs can symbolize passages of life and are also be applied simply for their beauty. Popularized in the West by Indian cinema and the entertainment industry, mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are called henna tattoos.

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