After attending a gala Mehndi ceremony a few days ago, I have a beautifully crafted henna tattoo on my left hand! All members of one of my book clubs attended this event to celebrate the upcoming marriage of the only son of another member. And, what a gala event it was!
About 200 people dressed in beautiful clothes including saris, salwar kameez outfits, bright summer dresses, and ornate jewellery gathered in the ballroom of a local golf club. There was music, story-telling, eating, and, of course, having henna designs painted on our bodies.
It is said that the Mehndi Ceremony is the oldest type of bridal shower. Mehndi originated in South Asia more than 500 years ago as a pre-wedding gathering of the bride’s family and friends with music, dancing, visiting, and story-telling.
The practice of applying an intricate henna design begins with a paste made of the mehndi (henna) plant. The henna powder is mixed with water until paste forms. The professional henna artist applies the paste in intricate designs with a stylus. The design is a dark greenish black colour when wet. It needs to dry on the skin for 2-3 hours and then rubs off easily with the dried bits falling away. Once rubbed off, a light design is visible. After 24-48 hours, the design darkens to a red-orange colour. The henna tattoo is said to last 1 to 3 weeks, depending on how deeply the paste penetrated into the layers of skin.
Mehndi ceremonies are popular as these floral and paisley designs applied to the bride’s hands and feet are said to symbolize a strong, happy, and prosperous union. Many brides have designs on every square inch of their hands and feet as part of their bridal adornments. As part of the ceremony, henna designs are applied to the forearms, hands, feet, or legs of female family members and friends. My book club friends and I had designs applied to hands, forearms, and legs.
This is my left hand with the wet henna application.
Two days later, the design is less prominent but still a beautiful piece of body art. It is now a deep reddish brown colour. I’m not ready for a permanent tattoo, however, this gives a new perspective of the pride one can feel with body art. However, I hope that I’ll sport this lovely design on the beach for the rest of the summer!
As I reflect on the Mehndi event, I’m grateful to have experienced this ceremony. It symbolizes the diversity and cultural richness of Canada where the customs and practises of many people from around the world are shared. The mixture of ancient traditions, religious beliefs, and democratic principles in this country makes me proud. When the Multiculturism Act was proclaimed in 1988, none of us imagined how much would be gained when our country welcomed and celebrated both old and new traditions.
The ceremony also enhanced bonding. Attachments and connections among women form in many ways. Over food, festivities, and henna tattoos, the Mehndi ceremony enhanced the female bonds among the members of our book club. Hurray for female bonding! Thanks to our friend for generously sharing her culture with us!
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