No one knows who started the tradition of mehndi. Some say it was the Egyptians, they pretty much have the monopoly when it comes to colors, make-up and things of the sort! (No wonder Nefertiti and Cleopatra snagged so many men 😉 ) And some believe that tradition started in India after it was brought by invaders from the Middle East during the 12th century. But whoever thought of it, whether it was the Egyptians or the Mughals or we Indians ourselves, it has managed to hold through the shadows of time and is a very popular form of art widely spread in my country India, the middle-east and even the western countries have pretty much fallen to its beautiful, enchanting spell. 🙂
We are becoming modern, challenging all our old rituals and traditions that were written down in the scriptures. How many of us nowadays actually go to a temple to pray? much less perform all the rites written in the shastras? But just mention mehndi and it manages to light up the face of every lady a mile around you. I guess, this is why this tradition has stuck on so firmly even as people are shedding away all the other traditions. Like a stalwart pillar in the fading evanescent traditions. It is like a reason to be happy, sing with an open heart and dance with no inhibitions. A reason for togetherness. A reason for celebration.
Mehndi is a beautiful form of art, of expression. The intricate designs and the painstaking accuracy with which they have to be made are its evidence. There are so many people who learn to create the perfect design. In some households the designs are a part of the heritage being passed down from grandmothers to their grand-daughters as the little ones watch with open mouths, totally beguiled, as their daadis (grandmother) make the exquisite patterns on someone’s arms.
Any occasion to be jolly and make merry, the applying of Mehndi has to be there. I hope that eons pass by, but the Mehndi doesn’t loose its charm. It is and will remain an indispensable part of our culture.