India: The Art of Henna
The Art of Henna
Kind of like a temporary tattoo, Mehndi is a type of art applied over the body, in which beautiful designs and symbols are painted on the hands and feet using a natural paste called henna. Henna comes from a plant that grows in the warm climates of India and surrounding countries, as well as in North Africa and parts of the Middle East. The leaves from this plant are dried, ground into a fine powder, and mixed with something acidic (like lemon juice) to create a paste. Mehndi artists use a small cone similar to the thin frosting tips used by cake makers to apply henna to the skin. The paste then dries and flakes off, leaving a stain that remains for several weeks.
Mehndi is used during rites of passage from youth to adulthood. It is often an important part of Indian wedding customs. Before a wedding celebration, the bride will have her hands and feet painted with henna. Many of the designs have important meanings for her marriage. For example, peacock feathers symbolize beauty; flower buds represent new life; and the sun, moon, and stars mean long-lasting love.