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Mehndi is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration in India, Pakistan, Nepal and Bangladesh as well as by expatriate communities from those countries. The word mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hinduism’s Vedic ritual books. Haldi(Staining oneself with turmeric paste) as well as mehndi are Vedic customs, intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and the inner sun. Vedic customs are centered around the idea of “awakening the inner light”.
Traditional indian designs are of representations of the sun on the palm, which, in this context, is intended to represent the hands and feet.
Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are sometimes called henna tattoos. Henna is typically applied during special occasions like weddings and Muslim festivals such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha . Similarly in Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Diwali, Bhaidooj and Teej. In some Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet. It is usually drawn on the palms and feet, where the design will be clearest because the skin on these surfaces naturally contains less of the pigment, melanin. Henna was originally used as a form of decoration mainly for brides.
In the modern age, usually people buy readymade Henna cones, which are ready to use and make painting easy. However, in rural areas in India, women grind fresh henna leaves on grinding stone with added oil, which though not as refined as professionally prepared henna cones, brings much darker colors.
Likely due to the desire for a “tattoo-black” appearance, many people have started adding the synthetic dye p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) to henna to give it a black colour. PPD is extremely harmful to the skin and can cause severe allergic reactions resulting in permanent injury or death. Alata (Mahur) is a flower-based dye used to paint the feet of the brides in some regions of India. It is still used in Bengal.