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.


Andrea's Garden said...

I just love reading your blog, because of the way you share your traditions and customs with us. The Henna decoration is beautiful.

kate said...

The Henna decorations are so intricate and beautiful. I'd love to have my hands and forearms turned into magical patterns. The colour is lovely ...

It is wonderful to read about different celebrations the world over ... all we had was Labour Day today! And that definitely does not require such a wonderful custom.

Annie in Austin said...

The beautiful Henna patterns are something I've mostly seen in movies, Greenthumb, but my daughter had a college friend who introduced her to them. There are artists here in Austin who specialize in applying the traditional designs, especially for weddings.

I didn't know about the Mehndi plant itself and appreciate your detailed post.

Annie at the Transplantable Rose

Matron said...

Those are beautiful. I see them fairly often in this part of London as I live near Southall. I had a small decoration done a couple of years ago at a cultural festival!

Iowa Gardening Woman said...

How beautiful! It is art. I would love to have my hands dones.

Yolanda Elizabet Heuzen said...

How lovely those patterns are and thanks for the info and pics about the henna plants. I'd never seen one before!

I had my hands done with some lovely henna decorations many years ago when I was in Tunesia, Africa for a wedding. My friends at high school were bowled over when I showed my hands to them when I'd returned from my holiday. This was pre-Madonna, you see. ;-)

Lovely post Henna Thumb! ;-)

BTW on bliss we're being silly today, so come and have a laugh!

Barbara said...

Such an interesting post. Thank you! Now I finally know how the plant looks of which henna is made. We use henna for hair dying. I like the henna decoration on hands very much. I also saw it for the first time in Tunisia. Greetings from Switzerland.

Tira said...

Those designs are beautiful! What talent. I use henna in my hair-makes it so full and shiny.

Alice said...

The ornamentation on the hands is certainly a work of art.

I admit that some tatoo work is quite exceptional too, although I hate tatoos.

How long does the henna stay on their hands?

Anonymous said...

That is such an interesting post! Horticulture and art combined! What could be better than that!

teresa g. said...

This is the only tattoo I would ever accept in my skin! Unfortunately nobody does it here, as far as I know, although henna is sold in some shops for hair coloring.
This is another beautiful tradition!

Unknown said...

What beautiful tattoos you had. Thank you for sharing the henna plant and process with us--it was interesting to see. Here, we have used henna for other kinds of temporary tattoos, and also for dying our hair. Is this the same kind of henna used in hair dye? (My hair never turned out quite that red, so I was wondering if there were other "cousin" plants or something used for the hair dye.)

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