Mehendi: Tradition mingled with a new look Colour your palms with rusty-red

mehndiAs always in the countdown to Eid, Bangalee girls are heading to the nearest beauty parlour to have mehendi (henna) applied on their palms. This old custom still has a wide appeal. Although the tradition is believed to have its roots in India, mehendi is very popular in Bangladesh too. It is particularly popular as a make up item on special occasions such as Eid or weddings. Mehendi has a pride of place as the accessory of a married woman.

It is difficult to pinpoint the exact origin of mehendi. Some historical evidence suggests that it was introduced in India during the 12th century AD. Again, there is proof that henna was used to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs prior to mummification over 5000 years ago when it was also used as cosmetic and for its healing power.

Mehendi is derived from the leaves of a small tropical shrub--Lawsonia inermis, ground into a paste. After applying on palms in intricate designs, the paste gives out a rusty-red pigment. The dye has a cooling property, and no side effects on the skin.

Designs of mehendi traditionally fall into four different styles. The Middle Eastern style is mostly made up of floral patterns similar to those in Arabic textiles, paintings and carvings and does not usually follow a distinctive pattern. The North African style generally follows the shape of the hands and feet using geometrical floral patterns. The point is to have sheer fun with designs and experiment with them until one feels really passionate about it.

Apart from this, computer graphic designs are also used with the traditional mehendi designs. Traditional Arabic designs of mehendi have now become popular. Wonderful designs make the art of mehendi more attractive and beautiful. In Bangladesh, henna is used on occasions like weddings and traditional programmes. It is traditional for the bride to get together with her friends and spend hours applying the henna on her palms.

Generally, mehendi takes a long time for the best effect. A few modern methods have however lessened the time. Zardosi Mehendi is the most popular one, which is in tune with today's fast life. In this method one can sport beautiful designs on the hands and feet with different colours in 30 minutes. However, it lasts only for a few days.

Many girls were seen flocking to designer Umme Salma Mimi for mehendi decoration. She said 'Although the tradition has become a little commercial, different beauticians have taken this opportunity to paint hands with mehendi, which is very professional. The colour is even darker and stays for long just like the natural mehendi'(Novera Deepita, November 10, 2004).

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