Henna Creations, Indian art, Mahendi, Mehandi, Mehandi artist, Mahendi artistHenna Creations, Indian art, Mahendi, Mehandi, Mehandi artist, Mahendi artist
Henna History

The History of henna is a tough one. There are many conflicting stories about where the first hennaas used. However as a plant it has been around for centuries in a variety of hot climes and continues to be used in both traditional Hindi and Muslim countries as well as in the west for a temporary alternative to a life-long permanent tattoo. Countries where henna can be found include Iran, Pakistan, Syria, Persia, Morocco, Egypt and India. The colour of the henna stain varies depending upon country of origin and the quality of plant there grown. The henna that we as a company sell originates from Rajasthan India and gives a dark brown-red color in contrast to many of the Arabian hennas which have a far redder hue. The natural dyeing properties in henna are tannins .

Henna has a variety of names including Mehndi (Hindi), Henna (Arabic) or Lawsonia Inermis (Latin). Other synonyms include Henna, Mehandi , Mehndi , Al-Khanna , Al-henna , Jamaica Mignonette , Egyptian Privet and Smooth Lawsonia .

Henna is a small shrub with small, dark green scented leaves. The leaves are dried and ground down into a powder which is finely sieved two or more times through a fine nylon cloth. These filtering process results in removing the coarse fibres from the powder , making what is left finer and easier to use.

The art form of henna application varies from one religion to the next. These varying designs meaning different things to each culture, such as good health, fertility, wisdom and spiritual enlightenment. It spans different cultures and religious traditions, thus the country of origin easily recognizable. Arabic henna designs are generally large, floral patterns on the hands and feet. Indian henna designs are made up of fine, thin lines for lacy, floral and paisley patterns covering entire hands, forearms, feet and shins. African henna patterns are bold, large geometric shapes, usually black . After the henna paste is removed Africans apply a blackish paste of ashes, ammonia compounds and other corrosives to get the henna stain to turn out blackish. This is poisonous and certainly not recommended, as there have been reported deaths from this procedure. We can only assume the reason they would go to these risky lengths is the natural color of the henna stains, dark brown to dark orange, does not show up as well on very dark skin.

Henna has some exceptional qualities. Did you know that it has cooling properties, is a great conditioner and staining qualities? If you have ever died your hair with henna powder you would feel your scalp and head to be cold. In India in the summer the soles of feet are painted with henna to cool the sunbaked populous. Likewise when henna is applied to the skin as for a tattoo, again the skin feels cool.


Arabic: henna
Henna is a cosmetic paste that is used solely for decoration, and is not connected to any health problems. Henna comes from the leaves of the plant with the same name. These are crushed into a green powder that is being sold in suqs all over the Arab world. To this powder , water is added, so that it becomes dough that is put onto the body. After leaving the dough on the body for some time, up to 2 hours, a deep orange color is left on the skin that will slowly fade away over a period of 2-3 weeks. The henna is often arranged to intricate patterns , and it is the hands and the feet that are decorated.

Henna is used almost only by women, and is in our days used by women that are in the age where beautifying is natural young women that are ready to get married, or women who have a romantic relationship with their husbands. Henna is considered very sensual by both men and women, even if the henna is applied to the parts of the body that are exposed in public. This also applies to married women.

Henna is also used for dying hair, but is seldom used for coloring other items, like clothes.


Tropical Shrub
Reddish dye made from it and used to color hair

Interesting Fact

In India henna is also a way for a bride and groom to get to know each other before an arranged marriage. A variety of traditions underlie the use of henna, including wedding games and legends. For example, the groom's name is usually written somewhere within the bride's henna, if he cannot find his name within the intricate design, the bride is said to have the control in the marriage. Also a dark henna design for both bride and groom signifies that the two will have a strong relationship. Also the longevity issue is particularly important to the bride because she doesn't have to do any household work during the period she bears her wedding henna designs the honeymoon period becomes the henna-moon period! This is probably the first and last time in her life that she'll be a lady of leisure so she does make an effort to preserve the work for as long as possible.


The following text has been taken from "Passages in Time through the Yemen", written by Maria & Pascal Marechaux.
A wedding is a chance for each one to reveal her natural beauty without shame and to boast her talent for enhancing it. It is as though butterflies of blinding colors had suddenly burst forth from the grey cocoons that litter the mountainside. Artfully coifed hair, make-up, a special wardrobe, layers of jewellery: the metamorphosis is spectacular, the hunger after prestige and taste for flamboyance, universal.

Like walking showcases, women so adorned flaunt the wealth of the men to whom they are bound. These riches, though, are also a sign of a womans cleverness, her ability to save, even small amounts, from her own business affairs and strict budgeting of a modest income.

The disproportionate amount of attention paid to a womans face and hair is made all the more obvious by her slight figure. Woollen hairpieces, up to two meters long, add volume to a woman's already thick tresses, tamed by generous applications of sesame or apricot oil, then powdered with seashell ground to a fine dust. Hair not tucked up under an embroidered cap, tumbles in tight coils that rest on her shoulders. A lacework braid reaching down to the small of the back offsets her weighty and elaborate coiffure.
Like the lush, green foliage of a healthy plant, the opulence of a woman's hair is an indication of her fertility; braided hairpieces worn by elderly women are thin and ragged.

The liquid paste used as make-up owes it smooth consistency and bright saffron-yellow hue to turmeric, grown nearby on the Tihamah plain, to its fresh rhizomes ground with diligence and care. So highly prized are the colour and overall effect, that a woman will often daub the paint over her entire body and use it to tint the embroidery on her clothes. It is also valued for its protective properties, which act against harms both physical (skin-damaging sun and wind of high altitudes, over-exposure to delicate silk embroidery threads) and metaphysical: it is believed to temper to woman's beauty, to render her less than perfect, thus less vulnerable to evil.

Dark lines traced with kohl along the inside of her eyelids deepen a woman�s gaze, while here and there an intense black tar-like vegetable substance accentuates the natural lines of her face.

Lavishly adorned, the head has yet to receive its crowning glory. Jewels, as many as can be had, are applied with little regard for appropriateness: shiny earrings glint along the curves of thickly piled tresses; necklaces are fashioned into tiaras. The slightest movement jars strands of fine chain and clusters of tiny bells begin to tinkle. Leaves stuck like wormwood to an already bold palate of colours.

Unlike custom in other parts of Yemen, the bride does not forsake her usual routine to prepare for what lies ahead. Until the very last moment, she diligently attends to domestic chores.

Come the designated day, an imparting of henna signals a 'new beginning'. An older woman of the village, known for her expertise in the matter, will use her dextrous tongue to mix small amounts of paste in her mouth, then apply it in strips to areas of the feet and hands destined for decoration.

Three hours later, the skin is infused with the rich reddish brown of henna, made even darker by a little phosphate added to the mixture. At once the symbol of blood and fire, henna represents the ambiguous nature of all things holy. But, above all, it is the symbol of life, with no role in funeral ceremonies, no use for a widow. Instead, it is saved for youths that encounter death before knowing marriage, to prepare them for mystical unions, in heaven The bloodthirsty jinn are on the rampage and it is better avoiding lingering at night in solitary places, with feet and hands freshly painted. The left hand, used for personal hygiene, is more elaborately decorated than the right, its purification a top priority.

The day after, an outsider in the village would have no trouble guessing that an important event has just taken place. Goats sniff disinterestedly at a few twiglike remnants of qat rolling in the dirt outside the stable, cleared areas of ground 'the men's makeshift dance floor ' stand out along the landscape. Paint on the women's faces and on their hands is left to fade away with time: a few days for turmeric and vegetable pastes, a week for cinnabar, delicate patterns traced on hands and feet with khidab and henna will remain for a month or two, on nails even longer.