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Facts about Henna
-by Sandhya Patangay
It starts with a small point from which the rest will emerge and within no time a vine begins to grow, swirling up and winding down before it has taken full shape. Yes, this nature’s pattern of growth, sensuality, femininity and beauty has inspired the pattern designing of ancient art of Henna.

The art of henna tattooing, or Mehndi, is an old tradition used generally for celebrating events or marking rituals. The use of Henna in the 4th-5th centuries in the Deccan of western India is clearly illustrated on Bodhisattvas and deities of cave wall murals at Ajanta, and in similar cave paintings in Sri Lanka. The evidence proves henna usage in India seven centuries before the Mogul invasion, and hundreds of years before the inception of the Islamic religion, which began in the mid-7th century AD, however with centuries of migration and cultural interaction it is difficult to determine or trace the origin of Henna.

Though, Henna art celebrates its 5000 years of existence and is being spreading across various cultures around the world, the methods and techniques are still intact and religiously followed by henna artist across the globe. The art of henna is still retained to this originality to experience the essence and beauty that pharos, royals, rich and poor have enjoyed centuries ago….

The word tattoo comes from an ancient Tahitian word "tatu" which simply means "to mark something." Hence, Henna Tattoo simply means marking designs with Henna.

Henna tattoo has entered the mainstream of Western culture that created fashion statement for the young woman of today. Women, and in some cases men, adorn their bodies for beautification. America remains fascinated with body adornment and beauty practices from other cultures.

Henna art has appealed all ages and all cultures that love for body adornment. Henna designs vary from region to region. Traditional Indian designs are usually designed on the hands and feet and may include symbols like lotus, flowers and vines, and motifs like peacocks, musical instruments, wedding chariots and pitcher. Arab/Arabic henna design are generally large floral patterns, popularly know as Marrakshi, Khalidji, Kuwaiti, Rabat, Fesi designs; and African henna designs are bold, large, and geometrical. Though not much popular, the ancient Hawaiians also used painting in ceremonies like marriage, war, and celebrations. No matter from which culture or country it has become popular, some prefer traditional and meaningful motifs and some lean to innovative and contemporary style. Contemporary designs could be tribal designs on neck and arm, Mandala designs around the navel or back. Non-traditional design tends to be a mix of all of the above and is more personalized per individual. One might like a particular portion of an Indian design and want infused a symbol meaningful to him or her. There are also picture symbols (as in astrological & mythical & Native American, etc.), religious or spiritual symbols (pentagrams, crosses, ankhs, Ohm’s, etc.), or script/writing from other cultures (runes, Chinese characters, Arabic, Tibetan or Sanskrit, etc.). Others choose designs purely for aesthetic purposes, like trailing vines or filigree patterns. The potential variety in design is practically limitless.

Many college students have been getting designs painted on their bodies with henna as a short-term alternative to a permanent tattoo, especially during spring break.

Henna artists have become common attractions at clubs, bars, vacation destinations, tattoo parlors and fairs.

Henna art is so versatile in approach and so rich in content that it's next to impossible to explain in statements. One can just observe experience and participate to have a feel of it. Still exquisite sense of dressing and ornamentation of ancient India remains out of reach of modern and developed world. But now, thanks to more aware fashion makers dedicated to enrich the world of fashion and beauty, they are also not only finding ways in but also giving new looks to the Henna Art.

This time-less art of Henna will not only remain in traditional uses within specific ethnic cultures but will also survive within various communities in the United States and other Western culture. The richly beautiful art of henna knows no boundaries in culture, ethnicity, gender, religious or spiritual beliefs. In its many forms, henna decorating is truly a gift of beauty, touch and trust.

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