The age old question. What is Henna? Answered by Nadia Ali

Ever wonder what henna is or how it came to be that brides wore intrigue patterns on their hands and feet during their wedding? Nadia Ali of Henna Dil Se explains it all.

A South Asian bride is one of the most glamorous brides in the world, always making a statement with her elaborate jewelry, sparkling dresses, and stunning makeup. However, it’s her intricate henna, also known as mehndi, which catches the admirer’s eyes. Everything a bride uses to adorn herself for her wedding change except for her henna. It stays the same and stays with her from the time her wedding festivities start till she goes to her husband’s house. If you grew up in a South Asian culture, you too have been mesmerized by the intricate details and powerful shades of henna ranging from ginger-auburn to an oxblood burgundy decorated on a brides hands and feet for good luck and positivity. A South Indian bride will always feel complete once her henna is applied.

The word Henna originates from Arabic and is used in many of the Muslim countries, while Mehndi is used in India originating from the Sanskrit word ‘mendhikā’. The leaves of the henna shrub (Lawsonia inermis) are picked off of during peak season and ground into a powder. Over several years artists around the world have come up with many formulas to create the darkest most long-lasting stain. The powder is usually mixed with water, lemon juice, sugar and an essential oil. It is important to make sure the ingredients you are using are all natural. Synthetic substances mixed into the paste can cause serious damage to the skin and one’s health.

There are 16 adornments of a bride; henna is the first adornment and also the first gift was given to the bride from her husband-to-be. It is applied on the hands and feet of brides as a form of blessings and to guard against evil. One of the most popular sayings about a dark stain is “the darker the stain the deeper the husbands love for the wife”. Another folktale is that if a newlywed brides henna stain fades away fast then it is assumed she is being overworked in her husband’s home. It was very important that the brides henna design stayed dark and fresh for as long as possible, as it was proof that she was being treated well by her in-laws, who were usually strangers for her. This is why people emphasize the importance of having a deep, rich color.

In the past because of the prevalence of arranged marriages, brides didn’t know who their husbands were, let alone their in-laws. Henna was used as an icebreaker between the newlyweds for the uncomfortable wedding night; henna artists would carefully hide the name of the groom in the bride’s hands. On the night of the wedding, the groom would have to find his name in the bride’s hands giving the new couple a chance to talk to each other and joke around. If the groom was unable to find his name, he has to give his bride a gift of something gold. In today’s modern designs, artists not only hide the groom’s name but also create symbols significant to the couple. Artists will draw a plane if the groom is a pilot or a small computer if he’s an engineer. Personalizing a henna design has become very popular in today’s culture. Artists are constantly looking for ways to make the henna application a custom for both the groom and bride to enjoy.

Want to find out more about Nadia? Check out her site for more inspiration.

Photos by DSA Photography

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