Patterns Which make you beautiful | Sunday Observer

Patterns Which make you beautiful

Henna (Arabic), (Mehendi in Hindi or Urdu) and Chinah in Hebrew is a paste made from the leaves of the henna tree and used to decorate the body in a timeless tradition much in use even today. Some records dates the Henna tradition as far back as nine thousand years while other records date it way back to 5,000 years ago.

Henna has cooling properties and the desert people used it to cool their bodies. They made a paste out of Henna leaves and applied it to their soles and feet. And as the henna paste stained their skin they felt its cooling effect.

As these stains faded they left patterns on the skin and this was what gave people the idea for decorative designs of Henna for the body.

Traditional henna designs are used for celebrations and rites of passage.

There is evidence that Henna was used for cosmetic purposes in the Roman Empire, (Convivencia period), ancient Egypt, Iberia, other parts of North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula and the Horn of Africa. Records also indicate that the art of Henna was much in vogue in the near East and South Asia including India and Pakistan.

Cleopatra is said to have used Henna and the ancient Egyptians painted the nails of mummies with Henna before burial. Today, the art of Henna is a very popular tradition both in the Orient and the Occident. It became a trend in the USA in the 90’s and Madonna and Xena are among the celebrity figures who have adopted this tradition.

Henna designs are symbolic and stand for good fortune, love, joy and good health among other things. Flowers, vines, dragons, clover, cats and dragons are included in the wide spectrum of Henna designs.

The art of applying Henna to the soles of the feet and the palms of the hand is known as Mehendi. In an Indian wedding the Mehendi Ceremony plays an important part. Held a few days prior to the wedding it is celebrated by the bride’s family with the female members of the groom’s family joining in along with relatives and close friends. There is much merry making and the Mehendi is applied on the bride-to-be’s hands and feet in lovely, intricate designs usually by an expert in the art of Mehendi. The Mehendi designs are symbolic of the bride groom’s love for the bride. It is considered auspicious if the bride can retain the Mehendi designs for a longer length of time as it will indicate more love for her on the part of the groom.

Dazzling stars Priyanka Chopra and Nick Jonas shared a Mehendi ceremony before their wedding.

In Morocco doors are painted with Henna to bring prosperity and dispel evil. Pregnant women in Morocco during their seventh month of pregnancy seek out Henna design experts called hannayahs and get certain symbols painted on their anklets. Then an amulet is tied above them. Both the henna designs and the amulet are believed to keep mother and baby safe during birth.

Once the baby is born and the umbilical cord cut a paste of henna, flour and water was placed on the baby’s belly button to bring him or her beauty and wealth.

Henna has healing properties as well. It can be used topically as an antiseptic for bacterial or fungal infections and is also useful in the treatment of ringworm. Henna is also used for the treatment of burns and eczema.

The scientific name for the henna tree is Lawsonia inermis. Hina, Mignonette tree and the Egyptian privet are the other names for this flowering plant which is the sole species of the genus Lawsonia. Originating from Egypt it is a tropical shrub or small tree native to Northern Africa, Asia and Australia. It has small red to white flowers and small opposite leaves.

Egypt, India and Morocco are among the main suppliers of Henna today. - ND

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