Henna – a Shrub, an Important Part of Skin Decoration, and a Profession
By Jass Narang
Henna is a popular art or a custom that has been around some 9,000 years. The scientific name of henna is Lawsonia inermis. Henna is popular among some sixty countries all over the world. Basically the plant is a flowering shrub used extensively for dyeing and coloring of hair, skin, palms, feet, fingernails, leather and wool. The word henna comes from the Arabic name heena.
Henna can also be called a form of tattoo of the olden days. It has a colorful past and a long history which depicts the various cultural interactions and migrations. A long time ago back in Egypt, it was used by the Egyptians to color the fingers and toenails of the mummies. It has now become the part of many traditions and cultures in today’s present times.
Basically being a temporary kind of colorant or dye, henna has now become a fashion in many countries. Many festivals like Eid, Teej, Karwachauth, Bhaidooj and Diwali are considered incomplete without the application of henna by the females of the house.
Marriage Customs are Incomplete without Application of Henna
Marriage customs are incomplete in India without the application of henna on a special occasion called the ‘mehndi ceremony’ or the ‘Henna night’. It is a very important part of skin decoration for a bride in South Asian countries and also some Arabian countries.A bride is considered to be incomplete unless her hands and feet are decorated with henna. Apart from being a decorative item, it is also a superb hair dye.
People all over the world use it extensively for hair coloring from times immemorial before modern hair colors were invented.
Even today many people are afraid to use chemical colors for their hair and prefer the age old dyeing practice of applying henna on the hair. It is regarded as the safest and the most natural way of coloring hair.
Research says that even pregnant women can use henna safely since it does not contain harmful chemicals and it is purely a vegetable dye. It has also been approved by the FDA as a safe product to be used. Even skin specialists are in favor of this coloring substance.
Henna Differs from Country to Country and Culture to Culture
There are various forms of designs and patterns used in the art of henna applications. It differs from country to country as well as from culture to culture. The Arabic designs are floral and the Indian designs are more fine and delicate with intricate lines and a striking pattern.
It covers the whole hand and feet while the Arabic ones leave spaces on the sides and do not cover the whole palms and feet. Most of the Indian brides adore their hands and feet with these delicate designs.Africans and native South American Indians follow the patter of large and wide geometrical designs unlike Indian designs. After the henna is applied, it is left to dry for a few hours. Then it is washed with water leaving an orange red color on the skin.
In today’s world, henna has become a trendy form of tattoo without undergoing the pain and trauma of the real tattoos. The temporary decoration is also preferred by many because the designs can be changed after some days unlike the chemical tattoos that are more painful and permanent. In other words it acts as a substitute for an actual tattoo.
The great Prophet Mohamed insured the place of Henna as a sacred thing which made its mark in the history of the world for many years to come. Nowadays many alterations have been made to the application of henna. Glitters, sparkles and many coloring elements have been added to the designs to enhance its beauty.
Side Note: Henna has Now Become a Profession
Henna has now become a profession for many people. Most people prefer to have henna applied from professional designers only. Especially the bridal Mehndi is a major issue in many Indian households where a wedding is going to take place.
Mehndi designers are booked months in advance just like booking the venue of the wedding. People want the brides to not only have the best design on her hands but also have the best color too.
Sometimes henna pastes are added with chemicals to obtain a better color from it. This causes many side effects which have harmful effects on the skin.
Recent news stated that a girl had burnt her hands completely with the use of henna. There was yet news recently that some people died from using henna. The reason must not be henna of course but the amount of lead used in it.
So such cases add a fear in the minds of people to use this dye safely. One thing is sure; if people interfere with nature and it natural boons, some harm is almost surely going to take place. So henna, if used naturally, is the best dye or colorant that one can use.
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