Tattoo art is one of the most amazing ways to decorate one’s body artistically, but it involves a lot of pain and costs a lot. Also, tattoos are permanent in nature and are as difficult to remove as they are to have inked. This is the reason why henna tattoos have come up as a feasible replacement for traditional tattoo art. Henna or mehndi refers to a natural dye, which can be used to create temporary designs on one’s body. This dye is derived from a plant as has been used for centuries as a natural coloring agent in India, Pakistan and neighboring country. The henna temporary tattoos are not only temporary, but also inexpensive compared to other body tattoos. Moreover, getting these tattoos is not painful at all. In fact, henna occupies a key place in various religious ceremonies and weddings in these countries and has a whole celebration dedicated to having these temporary tattoos done on the bride and her female relatives and friends. It is a popular custom in Indian weddings and in the neighboring countries too.
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Henna or Mehndi is a plant based dye, which comes from a bush called Lawsonia Inermis, which is native to the Middle East. The leaves of the plant are plucked, sun dried and crushed into powder. It is then mixed with water to make henna paste, which is used to create henna design on the skin. The paste is green in color, while it leaves a beautiful orange red coloration on the skin in the form of skin tattoos. In addition to being used for tattoo art, henna is known for its soothing quality and is finds application as hair conditioner, hair dye and skin ointment. Pure henna never causes allergic reaction, but inadvertent sellers these days have started mixing chemical dyes in henna powder, which gives henna arts a black color, but can cause damage to the skin.
Popular Henna Tattoo Designs
The best thing about henna tattoos is that such tattoos are temporary in nature and can be changed in design from time to time, reflecting the changes in the mood of the bearer. Here are some popular designs which can be seen in henna arts:
- Flower Tattoos – The most common object featured are flowers, which stand for new beginnings, having a great symbolic significance in bridal henna designs. Flowers also represent love, happiness and fulfillment. Leaves and vines show devotion and dedication towards this new relationship, which makes it a design fit for a newly wedded bride. Lotus is a flower which is used the most in henna designs, as it stands for purity, femininity and sensuality and some other flowers such as lily, sunflower can be good fit in henna designs. This traditional design is delicate and gives a lot of room for the creativity of the tattoo artist. Flowers can ideally be placed on both, hands and feet, with the swirling design delicately covering the whole area to give a simple, yet perfect look to the tattoo bearer.
- Bird Tattoos – Another common object incorporated is birds, mainly peacocks, phoenix, swallow, hummingbird and swans, all of them create an amazing effect in henna designs. Peacocks stand for outstanding beauty and most of the bridal mehndi designs depict large peacocks with the feathers extending to cover up entire hands and feet. Similarly, swans depict success while parrots stand for love and both these birds look excellent as a part of henna designs.
- Paisley Tattoos – One of the most common designs today is the paisley pattern, which is simple yet very attractive. It is the easiest design, which looks great at any part of the body. It represents fertility and good fortune.
- Butterfly Tattoos – As we associate butterflies with transition, from a tine caterpillar to a fully grown gorgeous butterfly, this tattoo design stands for a change in one’s life.
- Creature Tattoos – In addition to the regular beautiful objects seen in henna art, certain gruesome creatures can also be featured as a part of henna designs, but their symbolic meaning can be exactly the opposite. For instance, scorpion, which is a dangerous insect, can signify love and romance. On the other hand, the terrible snakes and lizards stand for the search of enlightenment, while the tortoise reflects fertility.
- Moon and Stars Tattoos – Celestial bodies like sun, moon and stars make another ideal choice as they look really pretty. One can have a full moon or the crescent moon as the tattoo design, with a few stars added to it for a sparkling effect. Swirls and dots can be included to add more detailing to the design and give it a complete look.
- Masculine Tattoos – It is not essential that they should always be feminine, as masculine henna designs are equally popular among males as henna is also applied to the groom in most cultures. They are considered auspicious for the groom too and this custom is carried out as a part of a traditional Indian wedding on the male’s side too.
In addition to all these design elements used, designers are today busy creating new and fresh designs using fresh and creative ideas. These designs are not only stunningly beautiful, but are also related with special meanings. The traditional henna designs continue to be the hot favorites, while the contemporary designs have their own fan following too.
A traditional Eastern wedding is incomplete without henna and a special ceremony called the mehndi is a part and parcel of every Indian wedding. The bride is made to apply beautiful designs in henna on both her hands and feet, and she has to sit for hours, waiting for the henna to dry up and its color to be absorbed in her skin, creating the most beautiful embellishment for her hands and feet. Applying henna is also considered auspicious for the bride, implying the she would be blessed with a long and blissful marital life. Henna applied on the palms means blessings for the bride, while the tattoo on the top of the hands is like a talisman of protection for her. At the same time, henna tattoos for the feet are equally important because they signify that the bride is grounded, with her body and mind being connected with the earth.
There is also a belief in India that the darker the color, the more likely is the bride to beget love from her groom and his family, which is the reason why brides to be desire to get the darkest possible color. These days, brides not only get henna art on their hand and feet, but also other parts of the body like the shoulder, rib, arms, back, spine, ankles, wrist, finger, chest, thighs. Since the incidence of usage of chemical dyes in henna to get faster color, is on increase, testing of henna on one’s skin is must before going in for the actual henna mehndi tattoo. One can apply a small patch on the skin and wait to check if any kind of allergic reaction occurs. If so, it means that there is something wrong with the henna paste, otherwise one can safely go for applying the henna art.
How long does a henna last on the skin?
Henna designs last from one to three weeks on the skin, depending on your body temperature, skin type, body chemistry, lifestyle, and where the henna is applied. The average person gets a stain that lasts 10 days to two weeks. (source EarthHenna.com)
Henna mehndi tattoos are temporary but brides want these tattoos to come out bright in color and stay on their skin for long. For this purpose, they expect the henna designer to use the best quality henna for their ceremony. They get the tattoo applied and let it dry, followed by application of a mixture of sugar and lemon juice, which gives the tattoo a darker color. The bride is advised to keep her hands and feet away from water as it can wash away the color from her henna mehndi tattoo. After the henna gets completely dried off after a few hours, she has to apply mustard oil over it to make the color even faster. In this way, the bride can get beautiful red orange adornment for both, her hands and feet and look like a perfect bride on her big day.
They are priced according to the size and intricacy of design. The bride has to be applied some beautiful and complicated designs spread over a large area, which makes bridal tattoos more time consuming and expensive. On the other hand, the female relatives and friends of the bride are applied simpler designs of henna mehndi tattoos over the palms, which hardly take an expert artist a period of 10 minutes, cutting down the time and cost. They are a source of beauty for women and they are also an important part of culture and heritage in this part of the world, though the popularity of this ancient eastern art is fast spreading in the Western countries too. Not even the most popular international celebrities have been left untouched by this amazing art form today.