Indian henna designs, also referred to as Mehndi, are especially significant for Indian women, although people of other cultures and nationalities incorporate the intricate designs of the tattoos into their celebrations as well. Henna is highly regarded in Ayurvedic medicine for its ability eliminate infection and impurities and soothe the stomach. The fragrant white blooms of the henna plant are even used to make perfume. Henna tattoos are created in a number of shapes and symbols, and many Indian women prefer henna flower designs for the feminine, delicate look of the tattoos.
It takes a very steady hand to apply the henna tattoos correctly. In previous years, the henna paste was applied to the skin with a matchstick for precision. These days, henna can be purchased in the form of a cone and a small opening can be made at the point of the cone so that intricate designs can be created on the skin.
Indian women receive henna tattoos most often for their weddings. There are some salons, particularly in India, that offer henna tattoo services for weddings, or for Indian festivals like Diwali. However, in many cases, henna girls, or young women who are skilled in the art of henna application, will come to the woman’s home to apply Indian henna designs. To prepare for a wedding, henna flower designs are often drawn on the bride’s hands or feet. About three days before a woman gets married, it is customary for her to invite all her female family members to her home for a mehndi ceremony. All the women get their hands and feet decorated with henna tattoos, but the bride’s tattoos are the most detailed. The images seen in the tattoo often include flora designs, as a symbol of fertility. Most Indian brides aspire to start a family with their husbands, and want their children to be healthy and happy. Of course, the bride can also choose from other designs to include in her detailed tattoos. For instance, the peacock is also a sign of fertility, as well as love and good fortune. Images of flower buds are an indication of the new life that the bride is about to embark upon, and a sign that love will flourish and grow in her marriage. Applying henna to the bride-to-be’s skin is supposed to bring her good fortune as a new wife.
After the henna is applied, the bride has a chance to relax with her family and to get sound advice about marriage before making this important step in life. The Mehndi ceremony is also a time of enjoyment and bonding, and is similar to a bachelorette party that would be held for a bride-to-be in the Western world.
Another tradition associated with henna tattoos is that the groom’s initials are often painted on the bride among the rest of her tattooed floral or animal designs. The groom must find his initials, or he has to purchase a gift for the bride. It is also an Indian more that the bride’s mother-in-law will love her more the darker the bride’s henna tattoos are. Indian culture indicates that the new bride is not expected to help with the household duties until her henna tattoos have faded completely.
These are just some of the reasons henna tattoos are so significant. Of course, women who are not Indian can also receive henna tattoos to appreciate their beauty and significance.