The Art of Henna in Muslim Cultures
Henna which is also known as Mehendi is a paste that is produced from a powdered form of the henna plant. It is believed that henna was used for the first time around 9,000 years ago in Egypt. It has also constituted a part of the culture of some South Asian and Middle Eastern countries for hundreds of years. The art of henna is used for cultural and spiritual purposes, but people in these countries also use it because of its natural cooling features to assist in regulating body temperature.
What are the uses of the art of henna?
Henna has many different uses and is usually utilized for cosmetology, medicine, religious goals, celebration, spirituality, and others! In some countries, women used henna as a natural hair dye that gives hair an orange color. In the current world, companies started providing henna as hair dye and people started utilizing it to make counterfeit freckles. Still, people mostly use henna during special events like weddings.
People with different cultural and ethnic backgrounds make use of henna according to their culture, the henna designs can be different! For instance, North African henna designs are made up of straighter lines and have more geometric patterns, while Indian henna designs consist of swirls and mandalas. Nowadays scientists found out that henna has antibacterial, antifungal, and anti-hemorrhagic properties. People have also used henna for medical goals. Still, although henna has been used for many different purposes since its finding in North Africa, it is mostly used for beautification.
Henna is now widely utilized for celebrating special events like weddings. The Henna paste can be the symbol of good health and happiness in marriage. Based on tradition, the dry henna powder can be blended with many different liquids such as water, lemon juice, tea and other liquids. Some people make use of sugar or molasses in the paste to enhance thickness to make it stick to the skin better.
There are many different traditional and creative tools such as basic sticks or twigs that people use to put henna on their skin. In Morocco, people usually use a syringe. Henna which is referred to as mehendi in Hindi and Urdu is the symbol of good luck before marriage weddings and includes barakat, an invisible flow of positive energy that will be the sign of good omen and defend against evil spirits.
It is believed that the art of adorning the body with henna was transferred to Pre-Partition India by the Mughals, although it had been previously used in the Middle East and North Africa. Henna is not limited to its beautification aspects. It is usually used on specific occasions such as weddings in order to be the symbol of happiness and bliss. The complicated patterns may also have some important meanings and messages.
The art of henna in different Muslim cultures
In Sudan, people consider Henna dyes to be very holy and sacred and that is why they always make use of it during happy ceremonies. Henna has constituted a part of Sudan’s social and cultural legacy since ancient times.
In Algeria, brides will be given jewelry and they paint their hands with henna before their weddings.
In Afghanistan, henna is also called “kheena”. In Afghan tradition, it is believed that henna is the symbol of good luck and happiness. Both men and women use henna in different ceremonies like wedding nights, Eidul fitr, Eidul Adha and other occasions.
In Pakistan, people utilize henna on different occasions such as in weddings, Eid ul fitr, Eidul Adha, milad and other ceremonies. They also refer to this ceremony as the Rasm-e-Heena, which both families regard as one of the most significant pre-wedding ceremonies.
In Somalia, people have made use of henna for centuries, it is usually taken from the Ellan tree, which grows naturally without being planted in the mountainous parts of Somalia. People use it for different purposes like dying hair and more elaborately for coloring the fingers and toes.
In Egypt, henna was used first time 9000 years ago. It is claimed that Cleopatra, the last queen of ancient Egypt utilized henna to make herself beautiful. It is now used the day before the wedding.
In Bangladesh, people use henna for many different occasions like weddings and engagements and also Eid al-Fitr, Eid al-Adha and other ceremonies.
In Tunisia, the process of the wedding starts 8 days ahead of the wedding ceremony when a basket is given to the bride, which includes henna. Nowadays, the groom attends the henna party with the bride.
In Iran, it is mainly used in wedding ceremonies. The henna ceremony which is known as ḥanā-bandān, is a ceremony for both bride and groom which is held one or two days before the wedding.
In Kerala, women and girls and particularly brides, adorn their hands with Mailanchi. In North Indian wedding occasions, one complete night is devoted to decorating the bride and groom with Mehndi, also called ‘Mehndi ki raat.
Henna which is also called “lalle” or “kunshi” in the northern part of Nigeria has constituted a part of the culture for 10 centuries. It is believed that henna is still used in these regions of the world.
Decorating the hands and feet of the bride is a highly important part of the wedding ceremony in the Arab tradition. In the UAE some people even devote a night to the Henna as a part of their wedding celebration. Eid is another significant event that henna is used.
In Malaysia, people make use of henna to embellish the bride and groom’s hands ahead of the wedding at a berinai ceremony.
In Morocco, people utilize henna symbolically when they experience life cycle events. Moroccans call the paste, henna and they also refer to the designs as naqsh.