10 Things You Didn't Know about Mehndi

2011 Jun 22 - by Preeti
Henna (mehndi) is beautiful. The deep red colors on a bride's hands is elegant and mysterious.

But do you know the history of mehndi and why we use mehndi? After scouring the web, asking my mom, and talking to friends like Darcy Vasudev of HennaLounge, I compiled the list of the best kept secrets of henna.

  1. First used in Egypt more than 5000 years ago. Pharoahs who passed away were painted with henna in order to live a great afterlife and be easily identified.
  2. Arrived in India in the 12th century AD during the Mughul period.
  3. The Yemenite and North African Jewish communities also put on mehndi for weddings. In Hebrew, henna is called Chenah. Chenah represents the three mitzvot specifically connected to women: Challah (separating the challah), Nida (family purity) and Hadlakat Nayrot (lighting Shabbat candles). (from Jewish Treats)
  4. Today, henna is popular amongst the Sephardi and Ashkenazi brides.
  5. Muslim styled henna is typical of floral patterns and negative spaces. Objects like the peacock, raja/rani are not permitted as it personifies God.
  6. Hindu styled henna is typical of intricate patterns, geometric shapes, and the use of peacocks, mangos, parrots, ranis, Ganesha, and name writing.
  7. Henna is an important aspect of warding off the evil eye in Islamic and Jewish traditions. The more henna and intricate the patters on a bride's hands and feet, the harder it is for the evil eye to find its way to a bride's forehead.
  8. Moroccan women celebrating Id al-Adha wear henna to celebrate springtime and the sacrifice of an animal.
  9. When henna was first used, Egyptian men and women would dip their fingers into henna in order to have red tipped fingers. It was considered inappropriate to leave the house without henna'ed hands.
  10. Rural North African people still use henna twigs as toothpicks to keep their gums and teeth healthy.