MEHENDI ACROSS CULTURES
Mehendi/Henna has moved out international. Once a typically Indian custom and a vital part of a bride's makeup, Mehendi has gone cosmopolitan. Thanks to the attention it gets through stars like Madonna, and other Hollywood & Bollywood / film artist.
With the passing of centuries, mehndi has gained in significance in cultures within the middle East, Asia and North Africa. All of these communities use mehndi (mehendi) for the same purpose: to decorate and beautify; however, each one has its own unique designs, inspired by indigenous fabrics, the local architecture and natural environment, and individual cultural experiences.
In south India, a circular pattern is drawn and filled in the center of the palm. Then a cap is formed on the fingers, as if they had been dipped in mehandi. This design is used by most Asian elders, as in the early days before cones (similar to icing bags) were available it was simple to apply. It is this design that is used by south Indian classical dancers. In north Africa, very intricate designs are developed around peacock, butterfly and fish images, which are completed with finely detailed patterns. The effect is that of a lace glove, as great attention is given to filling in the gaps that surround the main motif. Religious symbols are incorporated, such as the 'doli', a form of hand-pulled carriage which was used to transport the bride from her home to her in-laws' house in the days before cars. The lotus is also popular. Many people confuse Pakistani with north Indian designs, because both are intricately applied to give a lacy glove-like effect. In fact, however, Pakistani designs are a blend of the north Indian style and Arabic motifs - flowers, leaves and geometrical shapes. This choice of motif derives from religious teachings: Muslims must not pray with figurative representations on the body, and so do not employ designs depicting human faces, birds or animals. Arabic patterns are well spaced on the hand, and traditionally completed by dyeing the nails with mehndi to give a deep stain.