Monday, September 3, 2007
A Handful of Henna!
It is a mystery, how certain customs and practices find their way in our daily lives. It is only when we sit thinking about them, that we wonder on their existence. Some of these practices have a fundamental basis and logic behind them, others are plain whacky, but a few are interesting for the pure and plain feeling of fun they inspire. In south Asia dyeing of hands or legs in beautiful intricate patterns with Henna is customary on certain occasions. The variety and the artistic depth of the designs show how old and intrinsic the art is to Indian culture. Henna, also known as Mehndi in Hindi, is an evergreen shrub-Lawsonia inermis ,whose leaves contain a chemical ‘lawsone’ which leaves a dye like mark on the skin. Unlike permanent tattoos, Henna marking is temporary, natural and relatively free from allergies and other side-effects. Leaves of the plant are the richest in Lawsone content. They are dried, pounded into a powder and sifted so that the resultant fine powder can be formed into a smooth paste. . The paste is then applied through a cone or an applicator, on the skin surface... creating some splendid designs... The initial coating of dark brown gradually dries and sheds, meanwhile the pigment moves into the superficial layers of skin Finally a reddish brown impression of the dye remains... as the lady of the house stands preening... delighted by the result... It is the festival of ‘Teej’ celebrated in North India, where married women dress up traditionally in a sari and sport beautiful patterns of Henna on their hands and forearms, that made me think of 'Henna' or The Mehndi plant. It is said that the love of ladies’ husband is in direct proportion to the color, the Henna leaves on hand! Well, I personally will go for more objective criteria to decide on my Husband’s love for me, but as I said earlier, looking for logic in every thing we do, tends to take the fun away.