Henna is the oldest tradition , used by women centuries and centuries back.
The History of Henna
Centuries of migration and cultural interaction make the task of determining henna's exact origin a complex one. However, historians argue that henna has been used for at least 5,000 years in both cosmetic and healing capacities. Some researches argue henna originated in ancient India while others claim it was brought to India by Egyptian moghuls in the 12th century C.E. Still others will contend that the tradition of applying henna to the body began in the Middle East and North Africa in ancient times.
Archaeological research indicates henna was used in ancient Egypt to stain the fingers and toes of Pharaohs prior to mummification. But research also argues the Pharaohs were not the only Egyptians to use henna. Ani, a mummified scribe (1400BC), had fingernails stained with henna. There are also several medieval paintings depicting The Queen of Sheba decorated with henna on her journey to meet Solomon.
The art of henna decorating has been practiced in Northern Africa, the Middle East, Southern Asia, and Europe and has been used by Hindus, Sikhs, Jews, Moslems, Christians, Pagans, and others.
How is Henna used?
Henna has been used for centuries for body decoration. Ancient Egyptians used henna prior to mummification. People all over the world continue to use henna, primarily for cosmetic purposes. However, in countries where henna is rooted in historical tradition, members of the working class more commonly apply henna for medicinal and healing purposes. In Cairo, Egypt, for example, many working class citizens had their hands and feet dipped in henna to produce a solid covering, which differs from the common decorative design that is usually applied for weddings and other celebrations.
As a healing plant, henna conditions, cleanses, colors and cools the skin. When applied to hair, it has the same effect. Millions of Asian and African people regularly apply henna to their hair. In these regions, henna is inexpensive, readily available, and helps the cool the scalp in the hot summer months.
Making your own henna designs is simple and fun! It doesn't require a lot of artistic skills, just creativity!
Henna patterns tend to differ from country to country and from different cultures too. Each style is distinct. Arabic henna patterns are usually created from black henna. Asian mehendi designs are typically reddish brown. Arabic henna designs vary from the Indian mehendi patterns in that they are large and floral whereas the Indian designs are floral and paisley. Asian henna patterns tend to be composed of repetitive patterns of lines, leafy tendrils, teardrops and abstract shapes. Arabic henna designs are inspired by Arabic art.
A variety of methods are employed when drawing on the skin with the paste. In Morocco syringes prevail, in India, plastic cones similar to pastry bags are popular.
The paste is made from ground leaves of henna plants and a variety of ingredients such as lemons, limes, black tea, coffee, rose petals, orange blossoms, essential oils, cloves, pomegranates, tamarind, okra, and sugar.
The paste is left to soak into the skin for 6 to 12 hours; the longer the paste is in contact with the skin the deeper, darker and longer lasting the stain will be. Heat helps to drive the dye into the skin and cause it to become dark. Often women will sit near a small brazier or fire after being henna'ed. When the paste is scraped off, a yellow-orange stain will remain. The color will deepen to a reddish-brown during the next 48 hours and then fade away gradually.
Mehndi has been used in beauty rituals and customs from time immemorial. It is the oldest documented cosmetic and widely used through the Middle and Far East. It is used for its moisturizing and sun protecting properties as well as a hair dye, and its ability to transform the skin with red patterns. It is rumored that Cleopatra and Nefertiti used henna as well as Fatima, the Prophet Muhammed's daughter, and Mumtaz Mahal, to which the Taj Mahal was built.