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In Pakistan mehndi is known more commonly as Henna. This is a plant whose leaves leave an impression on the skin – particularly palms and feet – of women very much like a tattoo. However, while the tattoo is permanent, Mehndi or Henna effects lasts about three to four weeks at best. The Mehndi or Henna color varies from dark red to deep brown depending upon how long the henna is kept on the skin. Sometimes, addition of oil and lemon make the color darker and last longer.
The Use Of Mehndi or Henna in Pakistan
There are very intricate designs that are painted on the hands and feet of women in Pakistan with Henna. This tattooing is a way to beautify the woman for a special occasion which is mostly her wedding. There is a special phase in the wedding ceremony, called the Mehndi which spreads over two full days. One day is when the groom applies Henna to his hands and feet – though this more symbolical than beautifying; and the second day at bride’s house when it is applied not only to her but all her friends as well.
The bride gets her hands and feet done with intricate designs - hands are usually drawn upon until the elbow and feet up to the calf muscles. This is a fun time for all the young unmarried girl friends of the bride.
Use of Mehndi or Henna As A Beauty Agent
Women in Pakistan are generally very conservative as beautifying themselves may classify them as vain and attract negative attention and even castigation from the religious heads and male family members. Women are required to be subservient to the male in Pakistan society, according to the interpretation of the Islamic religion. Nonetheless, a few liberties are allowed to women when it is done with the purpose of making themselves more presentable to their husbands – as a duty of a faithful wife.
Henna therefore is used as a natural beautifying agent. One way is by drawing exceptionally beautiful designs on the hands and feet during festivals and other family celebrations; and another way is to apply to the hair. Henna is an excellent conditioner for hair which encourages the growth and the natural bounce of the hair. For women who have premature white hair, it provides an excellent way to hide it as Henna applied regularly gives a dark red hue to the hair.
In fact many men also use Henna for their hair (both on the head and the beards) for the color and the health of the hair.
Designs of Mehndi or Henna For Women
When used for weddings and other special occasions women take the help of professional Henna designers who have learnt a great number of designs for hands and legs. The hands are decorated both the sides (palms and opposite side) and it sometimes takes more than three hours for application only. The paste once applied needs to be kept as long as possible on the hands and legs; the longer it is kept, the better the color would be. The belief is that the darker the color of the Henna on the hands the more the husband would love the wife.
Needless to say that such designers charge a hefty amount for the application, a price that is happily born by the bride for the joy it gives. Henna is considered as one of the most auspicious symbols of the marriage ceremony.
Mehndi is a form of temporary skin decoration that is very popular in South Asia. Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos. Henna is typically applied during special occasions like weddings and festivals. It is usually drawn on the palms and feet, where the color will be darkest because the skin contains higher levels of keratin which binds temporarily to lawsone, the colorant of henna. Henna was originally used as a form of decoration mainly for brides.
The term henna tattoo is inaccurate, because tattoos are defined as permanent surgical insertion of pigments underneath the skin, as opposed to pigments resting on the surface as is the case with mehndi.
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History of Mehndi
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