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History and Importance of Mehndi in Indian Traditions

History and Importance of Mehndi in Indian Traditions

Mehndi – the one thing without which Indian marriages are incomplete. The mehndi is a prime factor in many festivals too. For example, events like karva chauth, diwali, etc, are incomplete without gorgeous mehndis. All over you can see that mehndis have been done to honor the traditions and they have some set patterns. So what makes these mehndi colors go around? What is the history behind them? Ever wondered where and how these were conceived? If you are going to do it for the wedding or for any event, make sure at least you know why you are doing it. Don’t worry, we’ll lift the veil off is mysterious mehndi saga for you.

History and Importance of Mehndi in Indian Traditions

Mehndi and its beliefs

Mehndi is done on the hands of the pretty brides right before the sacred marriage ceremony and therefore it has got to have some good meaning to it. For understanding the meaning behind the mehndi ceremony we have to look deeper into the popular beliefs regarding it.

Firstly, we know that there re any different versions of the beliefs but the common theme within them is love and affection. It says that mehndi represents love and affection and it promotes domestic bliss, therefore making it a perfect custom to follow right before the wedding. Also because of its positive effects on building a home, mehndi is considered to be an epitome of auspiciousness. This is why woman just don’t wait  till the marriage to get mehndi done, in fact, mehndi can be applied at any time on the woman’s hands and some do it just for fun.

Here are some popular beliefs relate to mehndi event –

  • The longer the mehndi color is on, the better it is for the couple and as a family. It simply means that the couple will have the honeymoon period for much longer in their relationship.
  • If the mehndi shade comes out to be darker, then this means there will be a deep bond of love between the couple – but mostly it is said that it means that the husband will love the wife more if the shade is darker. He will love her as deep and intense the color goes.
  • That is not all ! the color of the mehndi is also said to show the bond between the mother in law and the daughter in law. It is said that rich and deep colors mean that he bond between the mother in law and the bride will be very smooth. There will be love and understanding between them.
  • The mehndi is also deemed to be the representation of fertility. This means that if you again, have rich and beautiful colors then it is going to symbolize that you have good chance of producing kids which makes you a suitable bride.

Mehndi and its early usage

The word mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word “mendhika”. That means mehndi is as old as the Indian scriptures are and it is being used since the beginning of the Indian civilization which itself is more than 5000 years old. Mehndi usage was described in the Vedas along with turmeric. However it was mentioned that not just women but also men applied mehndi in those times. As times progressed, mehndi usage became limited to only females.

Talking about ceremonies there are two customary celebrations that occur before the wedding and that is haldi as well as mehndi. These two are said to represent the outer and inner sun in the human body and the earth plane. So you see the usage of mehndi goes deeper and it is not just limited to beautification although that too is a good side benefit.

Since these designs represent the inner and outer sun, you can imagine that they would have some different designs to them usually. It is written in the Vedas that the mehndi ceremony is about awakening the inner light before you tie the sacred bond of marriage wit another soul. Hence, the traditional mehndi design in those days used to be a central sun that was drawn at the palm of the person’s hand. It was drawn on both feet as well. Later as times progressed we created more motifs and toyed with different patterns on the hands.

Saying as these are described in the Vedas doesn’t mean that it was originated in India though. There are many different theories about its origin but the first records of the usage of mehndi was in Egypt. The Egyptian mummies that were discovered by the scientists had stains of brownish dye on them which were later found to be mehndis. This is as old as the discoveries have been.

Henna and its medicinal properties

Now that we know what henna does and what it signifies let us find out the scientific reasons why mehndi may be important. For once, it has a lot of medicinal properties too. For example, henna keeps the body cool and it has natural cooling effects. This could be the reason why the people near the desert region did them on heir bodies – in fact they do so even now.

By now you must have notice that henna isn’t ingested or inhaled. Although turmeric is ingested with cooking, henna is simply applied in the form of mehndi. It has long been known to have healing qualities. In the ancient days, henna was applied topically on wounds and sun burns and other ailments such as headaches were treated with henna application.

It blocks sun and protects us from the UV radiations. It is also applied on the noses and bodies of domesticated animals such as cows to protect them from the harsh rays of the sun. it is not used in humans in the same way because henna leaves stains and it is not always very desirable to have a stained face.

Another thing that henna usually does is make the skin protected against insects like bed bugs and mosquitos and moths, etc. it makes you skin inedible for those creatures and they do not come near you.

Clearly the wedding day jitters that cause headaches can be easily avoided by the bride as she does her mehndi.  Another thing is that it acts as an antiseptic agent and it keeps your hands and feet free of any viral infection. Post marriage there is a lot more bacteria that the couple is exposed to, given the fact that now two people share their closets with each other mehndi can actually help you fight against those by acting as a powerful antiseptic agent, hence keeping the couple free from any diseases.

Also small cuts and burns which the couple might encounter during the ceremony, can be easily overcome by the mehndi. It will make sure that your health can take on the toll of not just the wedding but also settling into the new life.

Here are a few more facts about mehndi you must know of –

Eucalyptus oil Darkens mehndi color Smells richer
Lemon and clove oil Enhances benefits of mehndi Makes it last longer
Islamic belief about mehndi Prophet administers the mehndi rituals The mehndi ki rasms held before wedding ceremony

 Other Link:

  1. Punjabi Mehndi Designs 2016
  2. 10 mehndi designs for sisters and friends of the bride

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