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Mehndi is a type of art that is applied to the body using henna, a plant-based dye. The application of the many various styles of mehndi does not need to pierce the skin because it is not permanent, even though it is sometimes called a mehndi tattoo. The person who is getting a design on their body will not feel discomfort. There are many different styles of this type of body art, including Arabic, Pakistani, Rajasthani, and Punjabi mehndi. The different styles are named for the geographic locations of their origin.
Styles of mehndi that originated in the Arab world often incorporate a bigger floral design, as opposed to the smaller and finer florals and other designs of the Indian styles. Indian motifs also often include an elephant or a peacock. African styles feature pronounced geometric designs.
There are also different styles of mehndi that are applied to the feet and hands to commemorate or celebrate specific events, most especially weddings. An Indian tradition that likely would appeal to Western brides as well says a new wife shouldn’t do any housework until the mehndi tattoo has faded away. The Rajasthani mehndi, a red design prized for its deep hue, also is worn by women in Rajasthan and other parts of India as adornment for different fairs or festivals, and the different designs often have specific meanings. One design represents the love between a husband and a wife, for example, while another design may symbolize a fan or waves.
Mehndi does not last as long as long as a tattoo, which is usually permanent. The duration of a mehndi design on the feet or hands can vary from several days to as long as about three to four weeks. The body art’s history, however, is much more lengthy, going back thousands of years. Many generations of women in India and Asia have adorned themselves with styles of mehndi by utilizing a powder derived from henna, and several parts of the plant are used, not only the flowers. Over the course of centuries, the word “mehndi” has come to identify the styles of the body art as well as the henna powder used to apply the design.
In modern times, public figures such as actresses and models have made mehndi a popular personal adornment. The increased popularity also has meant a change in where on the body the styles of mehndi are featured, taking it from only the traditional feet and hands to include additional body areas such as the neck, back and navel. Today’s mehndi devotees also have taken the body art into another non-traditional direction by incorporating substances other than henna, such as glitter. Men, too, have become more interested in obtaining mehndi tattoos.