Significance of Henna in Indian Culture and How To Be A Pro At It

Indian culture is famous worldwide for comprising different attractive customs and traditions on diverse occasions. From our festivals to celebrations, weddings to other ceremonies, India is a country one of its kind and has unprecedented ethnic heritage. One such heritage that charms every Indian woman and is an integral part of almost every festivity in the country is applying henna.

HENNA AND INDIAN CULTURE

Henna, also known as mehndi, holds great importance in the Indian culture. It involves the creation of embellishing designs on a woman's body with the help of a thick paste, which is created from the crushed dry leaves of the aromatic henna plant. Many festivals and occasions in India are incomplete without this beautiful form of body art. Ladies look forward to applying captivating henna designs on their palm and feet on diverse festivals including Karvachauth, Teej, Bhai duj, Rakshabandhan, Eid, and others.

One such grand occasion that holds huge significance on applying henna in India is weddings. The bride is thrilled since the celebrations kick-start to finalize her henna design and have it drawn in her palms and feet to flaunt a mesmerizing bridal look. The color of henna is also given great importance as it signifies how much love the girl would cherish from her husband as well as the mother-in-law. The darker the color, stronger is their love. Not only this, be it the groom’s family or the bride’s, everyone is equally excited for the mehndi ceremony. For, this art is just another way of celebrating happiness and new beginnings.

The best part is that henna's admiration lies in the fun value it offers. Where it’s cool and appealing, on one hand, it's a painless and temporary effort on the other. Since it does not involve any kind of lifetime commitment like the real tattoos, it does not need any major artistic skills. Before uncovering different ideas on how to draw henna designs, let’s simply discover its origin, medical implications, and the varieties of designs available.​

ORIGIN OF HENNA​

It is said that the art of applying henna has been practiced for more than 5000 years in different parts of the world including countries like Pakistan, Africa, India, and the Middle East. For being a great natural cooling agent, people have been using henna to cool down their bodies since centuries. It is done by dipping their palms and feet in the henna paste to get the relief what air conditioners bring to us today. The cooling effect stays until the time the henna remains on the body. Once it is washed off, the cooling effect fades away gradually.

During the initial phase, when people found that henna left color and designs on their skin after removal, they got this idea of using this paste for decorative purposes as well. Henna or mehndi was not a decorative idea for the rich people only; it was in fact happily affordable by the poor ones too. Those who couldn’t afford to buy jewelry used henna to beautify their bodies regularly on special occasions.

When it comes to the current scenario, the ancient tradition of applying henna seems to have been adopted by people all over the world. It was in the 90’s that it became a highly prevalent trend in the US and it has seen no downfall since then. Many known personalities such as Gwen Stefani, Madonna, Liv Tyler, Yasmine Bleeth, Xena, and others pompously decorate their bodies with henna designs and exhibit them to the public in movies, videos, photographs, and interviews. This shows that the West is no longer unaware of this wonderful tradition and has welcomed it proudly for different events. Not only this, some women also get their bellies painted during pregnancy for photo shoots and cooling effects.​

MEDICAL BENEFITS OF HENNA

The most significant health advantages of henna include its power to dismiss headaches, purify the body, enhancing the nails, skin protection, hair growth, reduction in inflammation, and more. Listed below are some other benefits that regular application of henna can bestow you with

  • Helps in healing wound: The wound healing caliber is the most noteworthy advantages of henna. It helps in protecting the skin against all kinds of infections and controlling irritation. Henna can be easily applied to burns and injuries as it forms a protective layer against foreign pathogens and substances. Additionally, for having great natural cooling abilities, it eliminates all the heat from the skin. Just like aloe gel, henna is equally helpful in healing sunburns.
  • Reducing fever: Ayurveda claims that henna is very useful in reducing fever. It is obvious that rising temperature of the body can be very dangerous for other organs and metabolic processes in the body. It is very important to bring down the temperature of the body to secure the person’s health and this is where henna helps. It aids in reducing body temperature by either inducing sweating or cooling the body and offering relief.
  • Curing headaches: For quick relief from severe headaches, the juice of the henna plant can be directly applied to the skin. Henna has anti-inflammatory effects that aids in reducing tension and gradually encourage healthy blood flow in the capillaries.
  • Anti-aging benefits: This is something everyone looks forward to. The oil and juice of henna have been confirmed to be a helpful astringent, thus helping people to reduce the signs of aging and wrinkles. This compound also helps in dimming scars and other unwanted blemishes. The antiviral and antibacterial properties of henna also protect the skin.
  • Boosts hair health: Henna plays a major role in keeping the health of our hair intact and progressing. It fortifies the hair and acts as a safe dyeing method without any permanent effects. It is known to prevent breaking of hair and increasing its shine and texture. Those who are suffering from hair loss or baldness, applying henna have proven to be a blessing.

The majority of the henna types available in the market are safe and non-toxic, however, black henna can lead to some allergies and rashes on the skins. Before you start using any new herbal henna, it is important that you take advice from a good medical practitioner or a herbalist. Additionally, many hair dyes might have harmful chemicals. This is why you must read the descriptions on the packing specifying the composition of the product.

VARIETIES OF HENNA 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.

Apart from these, some other world-famous henna designs and styles include Minimalist mehndi pattern, Bracelet mehndi style, Lace glove style, African mehndi, Mughlai mehndi, and more. Choose any of these or maybe all of them and start enhancing your skills in drawing them like a professional.

FACTORS RESULTING IN A NEAT HENNA DESIGN​

It is a fact that your henna artwork will get more beautiful and neat with experience and practice. Nevertheless, there are three prime factors that play an important role in forming a spectacular henna design

  • Consistency: The consistency of the mehndi paste is very important if you want a neat and immaculate design. It should neither be too thick not too thin. If it’s too thick, it will not flow out comfortably from the cone and in case it is too thin and runny, it will spill on the body and get smudged.
  • The length of cone: It is very difficult to handle large henna cones. This is why you must ensure that your henna cone is medium sized so that it is convenient to hold and use. The ideal henna cone length is generally 6 to 7 inches.
  • Posture: The posture of the henna artist, as well as the lady who is getting the art made on her body, is very important if one is looking to create a quality design. Place some cushions below the lady’s hand as well as behind your back for good support. Good posture will prevent you from getting tired and help you draw an enchanting design.

GUIDE TO DEVELOP SKILLS IN HENNA DESIGNING

There was a time when it was really difficult for women to make the mehndi paste, fill it in the cone and apply. Today, all of that is really simple as ready-made henna cones are available in abundance in the market. It is very convenient for women to apply mehndi on their own as well as other’s hands to enjoy festivals, get-togethers or just satisfy their hobby.

Here is a quick guide for those who always had an inclination towards this art and wanted to learn how to become a pro at applying mehndi​

  • It is important that you begin with small designs. You should practice making basic henna designs including leaves, veils, and flowers before indulging into other beautiful designs like peacocks, groom – bride, lord Ganesh, Arabic designs, and more.
  • Once you have your hands on the leaf and vine designs, it is the time that you start practicing on drawing the peacock design. This is a very crucial and significant part of the henna art. It adds elegance and charm to the design and keeps the ethnic touch intact. The body of the peacock can then be filled with the simple decorative designs you practiced in the initial stage.
  • When it is about learning design patterns for fingers, it is important that you practice making beautiful check designs, floral patterns or simple vines. You can also try to fill the finger area using bigger or smaller peacock design, small flowers or even checks.
  • Before getting started with applying mehndi on skin, you must ensure to check whether the skin is allergic to henna or not. For this, apply a small amount on your hand and see if your skin reacts. If you see any redness or irritation, avoid applying mehndi. Maybe you are allergic to that chemical or the mehndi must have expired.
  • Avoid applying mehndi on body immediately after doing waxing. As the skin pores are open after waxing, the chemicals might enter through the open pores and cause inflammation.

Ensure to follow these suggestions and guidelines as nothing is worth keeping your health and skin at stake for.

TIPS TO MAKE THE PERFECT HENNA MIX​

Properties of every henna quality are different from each other. Some work well with a particular mix and some do not. In a similar way, every henna artist and their expertise are dissimilar from each other. Each of them has their favorite hennas, mixes, and tools, and this diversity is not applicable on the artists only.

Every woman who likes to get temporary henna tattoos has different skin; some respond well to henna and some are allergic to it or do not absorb good color. What might be a great mixture for one person might not suit the other. Since henna techniques are only going to grow with the time to come, we will never get the answer to the query- how to prepare the perfect henna mix.

However, here are some tried and tested formulas that can help you get a great henna mix for that perfect deep and long-lasting orange color.​

  • Lemon juice: Mix henna with water and add lemon juice in it. This juice is a fantastic acidic liquid that slowly permits the dye molecules to release from the henna. Leave the mixture overnight and apply it next morning. Wash away after 1 hour of applying.
  • Egg (for hair): This is an amazing remedy that provides great bounce and volume to hair along with color. Add an egg in dry henna powder, mix it to form a smooth paste and leave it overnight. Apply it for an hour next morning and wash it with cold water.
  • Coffee or black tea: You can also add coffee powder or black tea while making the henna mixture. It strengthens the base of the henna color.

Try these formulas and see which one suits your hair and skin the best way.

Tracy Ream
 

A professional freelance writer with wide-ranging interests in medicine, fitness, health, psychology, tech, and fashion, Kim’s unique composition of life experiences includes working as an aide for a Democratic member of Congress, a senatorial nomination to West Point, extensive work with women’s relief and aide organizations, and a life-long commitment to helping others obtain and further their education goals.

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