Guest Post: The Meaning of Mehndi

Recently, Leia of Leia’s Delights wrote a guest post for G&G about The Stunning, Sensual Sari after I read a post on her blog about the traditional dress of her culture. I asked Leia if she’d be willing to share more because I have been fascinated by the beauty of the sari for years. Along the way, I came to know Tanvi of The Fabulous Life of Not-So-Rich and Infamous, and in exploring her blog, I saw some incredible photos of Tanvi at her wedding and I immediately wanted to know more about another mysterious and magnificent aspect of Hindu culture: mehndi.

Tanvi agreed to explain this custom, and I am so grateful. Thank you Tanvi!

Relevance of Mehndi in Hindu Traditions

By Tanvi of  The Fabulous Life of Not-So-Rich and Infamous
Portions of this post by Tanvi were sourced from Importance Of Mehndi In Indian Culture.

Photo by Juanita Tommy. Source: http://www.trekearth.com/gallery/photo969412.htm.

Mehndi (also known as Henna in Urdu) is an important part of Hindu tradition. Wedding being one of the most importantoccasions in any girl’s life is also referred to as haath peele karna (an idiom) which can be translated as “to color a girl’s hand yellow,”  i.e. to get her married. One of the symbolic references of mehndi is fertility. Therefore it shouldn’t be any surprise that the mehndi application ceremony, simply called Mehndi Ki Raat, is celebrated in full galore and grandeur. This ceremony is often combined withSangeet [which] translates as “music,” and hence makes it a night full of music, dance and feasting.

This ceremony is usually held one night before the wedding. The application of the mehndi on a bride’s hand (starting from the elbows) and feet (starting from below the knees) takes no less than 6-to-7 hours. Family and friends also apply one of the simpler designs of mehndi to celebrate with the bride-to-be.

One of the myths (just for fun, really!) involved with mehndi is that the darker the color of mehndi would be, the more your husband-to-be would love you. That is the reason why, even after its application the mehndi is kept on overnight to get a deeper, darker color on the palms. Traditionally, after her marriage, a girl does not indulge in any household work till the mehndi fades out completely (giving more time to the bride to get to know her husband and new family). For several centuries Indian marriages have been arranged by their parents and/or elders, thus such small rituals gave more time for couples to spend time together and built their marriage.

There after mehndi is applied on all important occasions and festivals. More than anything, it’s application is considered seemly and  auspicious.

Below are the images from the  mehndi ceremony where the mehndi is still on the hands (scraping off a little, as it’s dry).

This is the next day (the wedding day) so the mehndi is completely scraped-off now and you can see the deep brown color.

Thanks again, Tanvi for the lovely examples and explanation! You can follow The Fabulous Life of Not-So-Rich and Infamous on Bloglovin’.

Comments

  1. says

    i love mehndi! i’ve seen it applied and i find it so interesting and creative. glad to have found out more about it. and the photos are beautiful!

  2. says

    This was a great post! I love Tanvi’s blog and enjoyed reading her explanation of mehndi.

    Just a couple of thoughts, if you’ll allow me, V :-)
    I’m pretty sure “henna” is the English word for “mehndi” (derived from the Arabic) – in both Hindi AND Urdu it’s known as “mehndi” as far as I know…

    Also, I know this article is about henna in the Hindu tradition, but I just wanted to point out (for those of who you don’t know) that mehndi is not specific to Hinduism. Mehndi is used throughout India amongst people of many other religions, including Islam (the Muslim Prophet, Mohammad, was said to have used henna to color his beard white, which is why many elderly people in South Asia use it on their white hair and beards). And it’s not only native to South Asia – it’s also widely used in Africa and the Middle East.

    Anyway :-) just pointing those things out as I thought they might be interesting! I never knew why ladies wanted to get the darkest color (I always thought it was just for the prettiness of the color) so I enjoyed reading that anecdote! And the pictures are just beautiful.

    • says

      Dearest Leia, I went back and checked [http://www.learningurdu.com/urdudictionary.asp?page=6&Alpha=H] As far as I can find [on the internet] it is called Henna [or Hinnaa] in Urdu. But in case I am wrong I am glad you brought it up!

      • says

        Oh okay! You’re probably right – I just asked my mum (who is an Urdu speaker) and she thought it was ‘mehndi’ in Urdu, but it could just be that there is so much cross between Hindi and Urdu that some words get mixed up. On Wikipedia it said “The English name “henna” comes from the Arabic حِنَّاء, pronounced [ħinnaːʔ] or colloquially [ħinna]” but that is not to say that Urdu-speakers don’t use the word “henna” either! (Also Wikipedia is clearly not the most trustworthy source!)

        • Sanatana says

          After speaking with a few of my friends who are Arabic, the word henna is the English form of hinna (pronounced hee-na) which is Arabic and also the colloquial word in many ancient African tongues. The word mehndi derives from Sanskrit and Avestan which were the two similar Proto-Indo-Iranian (Aryan) languages of the Ariana and Bharatvarsh Empires (aka the Persian and Hindustani). The word mehndi derives from the word mehndikaa which means ‘of dye’ or ‘of colouring’. The first association was found in the old Vedic and Aryan scriptures, as well as documented in the Avestan Zoroastrian scriptures. Both religious traditions can prove their existence before 0AD, with Vedic dates as early as 5000BC, and Zoroastrian c.2000BC. While Avestan and Sanskrit are very closely related languages, the ancient Persians and ancient Bharatiya people got along very well and never claim one or the other came up with the word or custom first. However, as religious tradition would have it, Vedic Classical Sanatana Dharma could prove to be the oldest form of the mehndi art form, while Africa can document the cosmetic usage as early as Mesopotamian times. As far as the Middle East history, it is important to note that the Middle East was largely the Persian/Ariana Empire until the invasion by Alexander the Great and the persecution of the Persians by the Muslims in the 7th Century CE. All of the facts are documented not only in religious scriptures, but also in the history of Iran, the history of Indo-European languages, and the history of Bharat.

  3. says

    This is such a fascinating post. I quite enjoyed it. I found it very informative. I’m very interested in Indian culture. Have a great week.

  4. says

    EXCELLENT POST, V !!!
    Tanvi, chica, you are beautiful! I learn something new everyday thanks to all you lovelies of blog-land. :o) Being an Indian who was raised in the States and also as Christian, I’m familiar with the traditions, but never was able to partake in any of them while growing up. Most of what I’ve learned are from friends and Indian movies (yay Bollywood! who says these movies are nothing but frivolous and not educational. lol).
    Again, love the topic and the history! Cheers!

  5. says

    Thank You V! It is always humbling when people are interested in others’ traditions and cultures. I was very excited to do this, when you asked. Thank You everyone for their kind words! :)

  6. says

    What an amazing and informative post. I’ve always been intrigued by the beauty and intricacy of mehndi yet knew very little about it. Thanks so much for sharing! One of my favorite parts about blogging is meeting people from all around the world and gaining insight into their life and culture. Tanvi you are absolutely gorgeous!! Thanks for always introducing me to such fascinating bloggers V!! xx
    brookemeagan’s latest post: Roll into the Wild- Woolly WestMy Profile

  7. says

    I’ve always though Mehhdi was so beautiful! I LOVE watching Indian weddings because not only are they beautiful but so full of spiritual meaning and I absolutely love that! Thanks for sharing this! I had a general idea about it but never learned the full meanings.

  8. says

    Tanvi and V – what a great post! I’ve been to a Mehndi ceremony before, but I never knew all the tradition and meaning behind it. The application is fascinating to me – the designs are so intricate and so beautiful, and its wonderful to know that the meaning behind the tradition is even more special.

    I love this series V – I hope you do more of these culture-oriented pieces!
    Beautifully Invisible’s latest post: Courtney &amp Laura Wells for Cosmo Australia- The Plus- and Straight-sized Debate Rages OnMy Profile

  9. says

    I adore henna, when I was a child we lived in the middle east & mum would always have her feet done, she used to dye her hair with it as well. Gorgeous, love it!

    P.s Just to let you know I’ve given you an award :)
    I know you’ve got it before but still, just wanted to let you know xo

  10. V says

    Tanvi and all, thank you for your comments and interest. I appreciate it. Glad you found this post to be interesting and informative. Makes me want to find a mehndi expert NOW!

    I agree, Tanvi is a star! And a gorgeous one, too.

  11. says

    BEAUTIFUL!!! The post and the photos and of course wonderful Tanvi!

    …yes, that whole the darker the mehndi, mother-in-law loves you more thing is what we all go/went for!!

    I get mehndi done every summer, as cultural based cosmetic embellishment… I do not like tattoos but mehndi makes me feel olde worlde exotic… !! Plus it purifies the blood.

  12. says

    Tanvi, beautiful pictues! And great idea to do a post on this. I still remember having my mehndi at my wedding and having to sleep with it on….not so easy!!! And I love all the traditions and all the myths associated with it too.
    naina

  13. says

    Interesting read! I’m particularly interested because I’m the maid of honor in my friend’s upcoming wedding. She’s marrying an Indian man and they’re taking some customs from each culture…the Mehndi is the Indian tradition she’s most excited for!
    Kelly’s latest post: Friday Frocks- Vera WangMy Profile

  14. V says

    Again, thank you all so very much—regular G&G visitors and newcomers alike— for all the lovely feedback. Tanvi and I are working on another special post…can’t wait to share that one with you as well. I’m excited about it.

    In the meantime, I’ve been Googling mehndi salons in my area. I sooooooo want to have it done. Of course if I do, I’ll post photos.

    Cheers, all!

    • V says

      That really makes me feel good, Sovina! I always wonder what my readers are thinking, so it’s good to know my blog is interesting and worth coming back to.

  15. says

    I really enjoyed this collab post! Tanvi – thanks for sharing + darling you are absolutely STUNNING in your wedding photos!!!

    xo,
    raven

  16. says

    those pictures are so gorgeous. we do a lot of henna in Trinidad to since we have such a huge hindu population, but i’ve never been lucky enough to experience it in the full cultural context. the designs are to die for. so glad you shared.

    • says

      Glad you liked them! Tanvi was so kind to share, and she did look amazing. I am really fascinated with mehndi. One day, I’m going to have it done!

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