Mehndi is a form of body art originating in ancient India, in which decorative designs are created on a person’s body, using a paste, created from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant. Dating back to ancient India, mehndi is still a popular form of body art among the women of the Indian subcontinent, Africa and the Middle East.
Mehndi is derived from the Sanskrit word mendhikā. In Tamil, it is known as ‘maruthani’. The use of mehndi and turmeric is described in the earliest Hindu Vedic ritual books.
It was originally used for only women’s palms and sometimes for men, but as time progressed, it was more common for men to wear it. 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 on the idea of “awakening the inner light”. Traditional Indian designs are representations of the sun on the palm, which, in this context, is intended to represent the hands and feet. Mehendi has a great significance in performing classical dance like Bharatnatyam.
There are many variations and designs. Women usually apply mehndi designs to their hands and feet, though some, including cancer patients and women with alopecia occasionally decorate their scalps. The standard color of henna is brown, but other design colors such as white, red, black and gold are sometimes employed.
Practiced mainly in the Indian subcontinent, mehndi is the application of a temporary form of skin decoration, popularized in the West by Indian cinema and the entertainment industry, the people in Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh and the Maldives also use mehendi. Mehndi decorations became fashionable in the West in the late 1990s, where they are called henna tattoos.
Mehndi in Indian tradition is typically applied during special Hindu weddings, Brahman weddings, Namboodiri weddings and Hindu festivals like Karva Chauth, Vat Purnima, Diwali, Bhai Dooj, Naveaathri, Durga Pooja and Teej.
Some Muslims in the Indian subcontinent also apply Mehndi during festivals such as Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Adha. In Hindu festivals, many women have Henna applied to their hands and feet and sometimes on the back of their shoulders too, as men have it applied on their arms, legs, back, and chest.
For women, it is usually drawn on the palm, back of the hand and on feet, where the design will be clearest due to contrast with the lighter skin on these surfaces, which naturally contain less of the pigment melanin.
Source : Wiki