Indian weddings brim with a variety of rituals. There is a strong connection between an Indian wedding and the mehndi. The beautiful and intricate designs creatively drawn on the hands, palms and legs of the bride are certainly a sight to behold in itself. It is interesting to unfold the story of the mehndi and know how it gained its importance in Indian wedding culture.
A little history about mehndi
Mehndi is an art that has been around for thousands of years. It was brought to India by the mighty Mughals and then later became a major component in Persian art. Even though Mughal royalty used Mehndi, it was not available to the general public as it was considered a sign of royalty. However, during the 13th and 14th century when Persian art became popular, the dancers used to paint their hands and feet with mehndi. Every religion and culture used mehndi for different purposes. While Muslims used henna (other name for mehndi) to color their beard, Egyptians used the same to preserve the hair, toes and fingernails of their dead relatives. Imagine, this was done over 5000 years ago. Over time, the use of henna moved down social strata and people began to color their hair, hands and feet, especially the women.
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The significance of Mehndi in today’s Indian weddings
The ceremony of mehndi application plays a crucial role during the pre and post Indian wedding season. Her friends and relatives surround the bride-to-be when the mehndi is applied to her hands and feet. While there is a lot of singing and dancing during that time, the older women in the family make it a point to enlighten the bride-to-be on different aspects of wedded life. The darker the mehndi remains on her body, the stronger her marital life will be. These are superstitions regarding mehndi, but many people still strongly believe in them. One major belief is that her husband and his family would respect the bride if the mehndi remains dark. If it still remains dark even days after the wedding, then it causes great happiness in the bride’s family.
Thus the darker the mehndi is on her hands, the stronger the love she will receive from her husband and his family. The other belief regarding mehndi point towards its stress-alleviating aspect. Mehndi has several medicinal properties, and it will help relieve the stress that brides feel during the pre-wedding period. The nerve endings at the hands and feet get soothed and pampered when she dons the mehndi and it will keep her prepped up for the wedding and for the post-wedding period wherein she will adjust to with the lifestyle practised by her husband’s family. Mehndi is also great for healing the small cuts and burns the bride might incur during the marriage rituals. There is another fun aspect to the mehndi. Hidden somewhere within the careful and painstakingly drawn mehndi is the initials of the groom. He will have to find the initials; this game is intended to bring the couples closer and intimate.