By Amarpreet Kaur:
The Indian bride is an epitome of beauty and grace. Whenever she walks in, it is as if everything else comes to a standstill; looking resplendent as ever in her gorgeous attire; with the shimmering jewellery adding to the beauty and charm. In our very own words we call it, ‘chaand zameen par utar aya hai’.
And the beautiful ‘chaand’ will never be complete without those elegant and intricate designs painted on her lovely hands and feet. Yes, I am talking about mehndi: a tradition that has its roots in ancient India and is a symbol of our rich cultural heritage.
Indian wedding celebrations have an entire day specially dedicated to the mehndi rasam, which speaks a lot about its value and importance in our culture. A day before the wedding, family and friends gather at the bride’s place for the function. There is a lot of dancing; there is food; and of course there is mehndi. Specialists are called to apply mehndi on the bride’s hands and feet. The designs are usually complicated and beautiful, and the initials of the groom’s name are interwoven into it. It is believed that the deeper the colour of the mehndi, the stronger is her bond of love and affection with her husband and her in-laws. Other female members of the family apply henna as well.
The application of mehndi is a specialized art which requires a lot of hard work and detailing. Care is taken to ensure that the design does not get spoilt; the thinner and finer the lines, the more intricate and beautiful the pattern turns out. There are mehndi cones available in the market today that people sometimes use themselves at their homes for the shagun.
Marriages and mehndi: the relationship between the two has been much emphasized. But there are other festivals as well in India where its importance cannot be overlooked at all. For instance, Karwa Chauth, an occasion where wives fast in order to pray for long lives of their husbands. This festival was celebrated on the 2nd of November this year. If you visited any market at that time, you could find women in huge numbers getting the mehndi applied on their hands. It is a part of tradition, and more so among married women.
As with every other field today, there is a lot of room for experimentation for the women as far as mehndi is concerned. There are myriad numbers of styles that you can get on your hands: The Arabic style is gaining much popularity these days. Then there is the Rajasthani style. At homes people employ the simple design where in you put a small circle in the middle of the palm and surround it with a dotted pattern. The more complex and traditional designs are there for the brides. You can add glitter to mehndi and there is also an option of getting mehndi applied on the back as well as arms for the more elaborate look.
Mehndi as an art is making a place for itself in the western countries as well. People in these parts of the world know it well as henna tattoo art. Then in Africa and the Middle-East countries too, the tradition is very much prevalent. Whatever the name or the place, mehndi is an art that will stay forever; it is traditional and is beautiful.