Mehndi or “Mehendi” is a form of body art from Ancient India, in which decorative designs are created on a person’s body, using a paste, created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant (Lawsonia inermis). Ancient in origin, mehndi is still a popular form of body art among the women of the Indian Subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East.
Mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hindu
Vedic ritual books. It was originally used for only women’s palms and sometimes for men, but as time progressed, it was more common for women to wear it. Haldi (staining oneself with turmeric paste) as well as mehndi are Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered on the idea of “awakening the inner light”. Traditional Indian designs are representations of the sun on the palm, which, in this context, is intended to represent the hands and feet.
There are many variations and types in mehndi designs which are categorized, such as Arabic mehndi designs, Indian mehndi designs, and Pakistani mehndi designs. Women usually apply variations of henna or mehndi design patterns on their hands and feet.
While there is some controversy over the origins of the use of henna leaf powder as a dying agent, the earliest clear evidence of henna powder application on the body appears in Egyptian mummies whose hair and nails were stained with the reddish brown tones of henna. Botanists believe the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis, originated in Egypt and was carried regularly to India where it was used since at least 700 AD for decorating hands and feet. Historically henna has also been used for medicinal purposes, to dye cloth and leather as well as hair, to color the manes of horses and the fur of other animals.
Practiced mainly in the Indian Subcontinent, mehndi is the application of a temporary form of skin decoration, popularized in the West by Indian cinema and the entertainment industry, the people in Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives also use mehndi.