We all know what is henna and why people love to have it either in special occasions or just random events. But little to we know about its history and where it all started and how henna art became an art.
Today, hair-braiders and henna tattoo artists are among the most in demand individuals in different places in the world including beaches because of their unique skills that people who are in vacation mode really want.
These tourists are so excited to have their hair fixed or have henna because they believe that doing so will further enhance their beauty while enjoying their vacation or while staying at the beach.
In leading beaches all over the world today, it’s impossible not to see henna artists as well as tattooist offering their services to flocking tourists. Different shapes, designs, and colors of henna are available for people who want to try this body art for the first time or for multiple times.
Among many people who are going to the beach, having a henna design done is far better and more attractive than massage because the former makes the event even special by making it even more memorable.
But long before, henna has become a popular body art that most of us have known today, it was then considered as sacred and important element of various cultures all over the world.
Despite the ignorance of many people of the colorful history of henna, we can’t deny the fact that we need to recognize that it’s important to have an idea of what this art is all about and how we can harness its beauty by revisiting its interesting history.
To be honest, it’s extremely difficult to trace pinpoint where the art of henna all started. Because of the nomadic lifestyle of early civilizations, there has no single historical fact that identifies where henna started as an art.
Despite all of these, there were several accounts that connect Cleopatra, the infamous Queen of Egypt, as the possible person who first use henna.
Actually, there’s this one historical evidence showing that Catal Huyuk’s people in 7 BC used henna as a form of ornaments to adorn their hands to honor their goddess of fertility.
History also tells us that among the first civilization that accordingly first used henna are the Assyrians, Summerians, Babylonians, Canaantines, and the Ugaritics. But in terms of hard evidence, it was considered that the Ugaritics were the first civilizations in the world to have used henna with ritualistic value as written on a tablet, which according to result of the carbon dating, is approximately made in 2100 BC in the northwest part of Syria.
But other than the Ugaratics, the Chinese is also regarded as one of the pioneers in the history that first used henna in their rituals and other ornamental purposes.
Just like the Chinese, the Indians are also known to have a special stake in the development of henna as an art. In fact, several ancient mural paintings were found all over India proving that henna designing that been an art since the 4th-5th centuries.
During these periods up until today, no one can deny how henna has evolved from a village and nomadic practice to a worldwide craze that invaded the rest of the world.
Etymologically, the word henna originated from an Arabic term Al-Hinna, which is a type of shrub that grows in different parts of western Asia and the Middle East. Some of the places where this plant grows include Syria, Persia (now modern-day Iran), Iran, Morocco, Pakistan, Yemen, Palestine, Uganda, Egypt, Tanzania, Senegal, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Kenya, India, and Eritrea.
Traditionally, there are several standard procedures done as well the right choice of raw materials. Traditional raw materials of the earlier versions of henna include leaves of different plants such as tea, coffee, indigo, lemon, and cloves, among others. These ingredients are added to give color to the all-black henna dye.
During early years, henna is also being used or early civilizations as a soothing or protective covering against hot weather, which may cause a major blow to the skin. The henna acts as an ornament as well as a protective layer against the harmful sun and it also cools the skin.
Also, it’s best to know the difference between Henna and Mendhi. Some people thought that henna is the modern version while Mendhi is the traditional one. Of course that’s not the case although it can be very misleading actually.
The truth of the matter is the two both referrers to the same form of body art although they vary lightly on the manner of application. Mendhi is the way of application in India while the Henna is Arabic. Also, they may have slight variations, but they share the same ancestry and roots as a form of body art.
Throughout history, how people view henna as an art has evolved significantly. From being a special part of rituals to a simple body art that anyone can get at any given time, true indeed that henna as an art has evolved significantly.
As early as 1400BC a scribe, which has been mummified was found with its fingernails with henna. Another artifact was found dating back to the medieval era of a Queen’s portrait using henna ink, showing that as early as during these periods, henna are being used in different purposes rather than body art.
But one of the most popular uses of henna is a body ornament. It can’t be denied that this is also the common denominator among the uses of henna across cultures throughout history.
But there are some exception, in civilizations where henna is a scared part of their tradition, the commoners are not allowed to have this body part. It’s only the royal family or the aristocrats who have the rights to use this body art as evidenced in excavated mummified royalties in different parts of the world.
This only shows that as early in before, henna is not just a mere form of body painting art that anyone can get when they please, it’s more of a social symbol that only select member of the society has the right to have that.