Last week I talked about the Goddess of Purity Ceremony. If you haven’t checked out Part I or Part II, I recommend reading them before you read on. This week I will share my henna ceremony, or as we say in Hindi Mehndi, (pronounced meh-hen-dee).
What is the Mehndi Ceremony?
As the wedding draws a little closer, the Mehndi ceremony, is the last of the beautification rituals left. Mehndi is organized by the bride’s family and is usually a private affair which takes place in the presence of friends, relatives and family members.
But what is Mehndi?
Mehndi started over 5,000 years ago. It is an ancient form of body art that has been practiced in the Middle East, India and parts of Africa for thousands of years. Archeologists have even found mummies with hennaed hands. How crazy is that?!
What is Mehndi made from?
Mehndi is made by creating a paste from powdered and dried leaves of the henna plant; (hence henna in English). The leaves are dried in the sun, ground and sieved to obtain a fine mossy green powder. The powder is then combined with water, lemon juice, drops of eucalyptus oil, and mixed until you have a smooth paste. The paste is soaked overnight for maximum infusion and then poured inside a plastic cone; which is then used to apply the design.
The main benefit of putting henna is to cool your body. So, when you make the paste and apply it on your hand, it gives a tingling sensation to the skin. Hence as a bride, it forces you to sit and relax for the big change that is coming!
Going back to the old times, mehndi was usually just a simple dot on the palm. But people got bored and began to add lines and other shapes. Eventually this elaboration became the beautiful designs we see today
Is it just the bride who puts mehndi? Where does she put it?
Mehndi is not only worn by the bride, but also by all the women in her family and even the groom! Afterall, everyone needs to cool down .
At the mehndi ceremony, lots of different artists are called, but there is one specific artist, (usually the best), who applies the design for the bride. In Indian weddings there are two interesting elements about the design:
1) The artist usually draws in the couple as part of the design, as seen in the picture.
2) The other fun part, is that she hides the name of the groom in the design. On the couple’s wedding night, the groom has to find his name; for every letter he doesn’t find he has the give his wife a gift! I approve, don’t you agree ladies?!
The bride puts the mehndi, on both sides of her hand, sometimes she even does it till her elbow. She also puts it on her feet. All of this is to decorate the bride, to look beautiful on her wedding day.
As I mentioned other family members also put mehndi, to be beautiful for the bride’s big day. You can see my mummy and sis were getting theirs’ done simultaneously, with me. This ceremony,
also allows the bride to spend quality time with her family before she leaves her house. Ok so you’re reading going what huh? Leave? Back in the olden times, when an Indian girl got married, it would be sometime before she saw her family again; hence the ceremony was another way for the family to enjoy their time before she left.
The last person left to put henna is the groom. It is merely a token for good omen. In this case, my husband, got my name written!
What happens after you have put the designs?
Mehndi needs to be kept on for a minimum of 4 hours for deep and uniform color. It usually turns into a cherry-red to brown color. The longer the paste is kept, the deeper the color will be.
While you are waiting for the mehndi to dry you can get quite hungry! So as a result, my sis had to feed me!
Because it takes time for the Mehndi artist to put the design on the bride’s hands and for it to dry, during the ceremony, the family members perform dances to keep everyone involved and engaged, we just gotta dance dance dance!
As you can see my sis and mom danced away, as I sat and got my Mehndi done.
So 4 hours later, after I scrapped the mehndi off this is what it looked like. It was orange, and there was still a little mehndi left on me.
But the next day… aka the day of my wedding…
It was this beautiful red color!!!