Henna is a flowering plant used since antiquity to dye skin, hair, fingernails, leather and wool. The name is also used for dye preparations derived from the plant, and for the art oftemporary tattooing based on those dyes. Additionally, the name is misused for other skin and hair dyes, such as black henna or neutral henna, which do not derive from the plant.
In India, women can oftenbe seen with intricately decorated hands and feet. Find out more about the tradition behind henna tattoos and the art of mehndi designs.
Decorating the skin with henna tattoos and applying mehndihas gained popularity in the West since the 1990s, no doubt because of celebrities sporting mehndi designs and the influence of Bollywood.
Henna has been used to adorn young women's bodies as partof social and holiday celebrations since the late Bronze Age in the eastern Mediterranean. The earliest text mentioning henna in the context of marriage and fertility celebrations comes from theUgaritic legend of Baal and Anath, which has references to women marking themselves with henna in preparation to meet their husbands, and Anath adorning herself with henna to celebrate a victory over theenemies of Baal. Wall paintings excavated at Akrotiri (dating prior to the eruption of Thera in 1680 BCE) show women with markings consistent with henna on their nails, palms and soles, in a tableauconsistent with the henna bridal description from Ugarit. Many statuettes of young women dating between 1500 and 500 BCE along the Mediterranean coastline have raised hands with markings consistent withhenna. This early connection between young, fertile women and henna seems to be the origin of the Night of the Henna, which is now celebrated worldwide.
[pic]Mehndi is one ofthe sixteen adornments bestowed on a bride during Solah Shringar. In this way, mehndi marks the rite of passage of marriage in a girl's life and her initiation into womanhood. For more information on...