Mehndi is a temporary tattoo painted on hands and feet with red natural henna. It is common in North Africa, India and Pakistan.
The origins of the henna tattoo date back to the origins of humanity. Among the earliest civilizations of mankind, woman was the most important deity. The goddesses represented the fertility of the land. In communities based on agriculture this was the only thing that transcended. One of these deities was Anat, the warrior goddess of the fertility of the Chaldeans. In the myth she seduces Baal, the bull god of rain. She decorates her body with a substance called henna.
Women, to honor this goddess, decorated the hands during the fertility rites in spring. But their use was not limited to ornaments. Among the Arabs, it got used to dye hair and beard.
The people of the Sahara area used it as a medicinal plant. Tattoos were common during festivals and sacred events in Mesopotamia and Egypt. Assyrian texts from the 7th century BC describe the wedding of a girl with palm-colored hands. In China, women painted flowers on their nails. Then the henna conquered India in the twelfth century.
The practice of tattooing with Henna exist since Roman times. In fact, henna has soothing and anti-inflammatory therapeutic properties. Even today, women from many Middle Eastern countries use tattoos on their hands and feet. It is a tool of beauty and seduction for their fiancées and husbands.
Older women introduce her to the world of love, revealing the secrets to being a good wife. They instruct her how to behave to please her husband . Most girls learn this art from childhood.
The mehndi is not permanent and last from two weeks to a month. It is not painful and leaves on the skin a pleasant aroma that fades in the early days.
For the preparation of the dough, Henna leaves must be well dried. The mixture gets made of henna powder mixed with lukewarm water. A tablespoon of lemon juice gets used as a fixator to increase the duration of the coloring. It gets accompanied even by tea, coffee or essential oils (such as rose water or orange blossom).
Henna powder must have a brilliant green color. To have a good coloring effect on the skin it must be very fresh. The resulting mixture must be pasty, not too liquid, or too dry because it would be impossible to apply it.
Often the hands and/or feet get kept close to the fire to give an intense red color to the design. To avoid smearing and staining, it is best to place a fabric cloth and use gloves. The stains can get removed with a bleach.
The color of the tattoo shrinks over time. In a cool, dry climate, the ink remains dark for a long time. Frequent washing can attenuate the color. The duration of the tattooing also varies depending on the pH of the skin, soap and cosmetics used.
In India almost nothing is devoid of symbolic value. A chessboard motif indicates the newlyweds as they enter a new phase of their existence. Peacock symbolizes beauty, while the swan is a success. Birds in general are the intermediaries between the earth and the sky. Dragonflies and butterflies are symbols of rebirth and change.
Petals and flowers are for happiness and joy. Leaves represent devotion and vitality and are symbols suitable for wedding tattoos. Eyebrows have the function of repelling the evil eye. Cashmere motifs, besides being very beautiful, represent fertility and good luck.
An Indian proverb states that: The darker the mehndi, the more the mother-in-law will love you."