Mehndi applied on the palms
Mehndi applied on the backs of the hand

Mehndi (pronunciation ) is a form of temporary skin decoration using a paste created with henna. In the West, mehndi is commonly known as henna tattoo, although it is not actually a tattoo as only the surface of the skin is inked.

Mehndi is a popular form of body art in South Asia and resembles similar traditions of henna as body art found in North Africa, East Africa and the Middle East. There are many different names for mehndi across the languages of South Asia.

There are many variations and designs. Women usually apply mehndi designs to their hands and feet, though some, including cancer patients and women with alopecia, occasionally decorate their scalps.[1] The standard color of henna is brown, but other design colors such as white, red, black and gold are sometimes used.[1]

Mehndi is typically applied during Hindu weddings and festivals like Karva Chauth, Vat Purnima, Diwali, Bhai Dooj, Navratri, Durga Puja, and Teej.[2] Muslims in South Asia also apply mehndi during Muslim weddings as well as festivals such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha.[3]

At Hindu and Sikh festivals, women often have henna applied to their hands, feet and sometimes the backs of their shoulders. Conversely, men usually have it applied on their arms, legs, back, and chest. For women, it is usually drawn on their palms, backs of their hands and on feet, where the design will be clearest due to contrast with the lighter skin on these surfaces, which naturally contains less of the pigment melanin.[citation needed]

A painting of Mehandi design practice at Salar Jung Museum.


The origin of "mehndi" is from the Sanskrit word "mendhika," which refers to a plant that releases a red dye.[4] According to A Dictionary of Urdu, Classical Hindi and English Mehndi also refers to "the marriage-feast on the occasion of the bride's hands and feet being stained with henna."[4]


Video of mehndi application
Mehndi decoration of palms and feet
Mehndi decoration of palms and feet of a bride

The use of mehndi has its origins in the ancient Middle East and Indian subcontinent where it was used in civilizations such as Babylon and ancient Egypt. It was prevalent in fourth century in India, which is evident from cave art in the Deccan, specifically in the Ajanta Caves.[5]


The paste is made from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant, Lawsonia inermis.[6]

Mehndi paste is usually applied to the skin using a plastic cone, a paintbrush, or a stick. Fifteen to twenty minutes after application, the mud will dry and begin to crack. The painted area is then wrapped with tissue, plastic, or medical tape to lock in body heat, creating a more intense colour on the skin. The wrap, which is not a traditional method, is worn for two to six hours, or sometimes overnight, and then removed.[citation needed]

When first removed, the henna design is pale to dark orange in colour and gradually darkens through oxidation, over the course of 24 to 72 hours. The final color is reddish brown and can last anywhere from one to three weeks depending on the quality and type of henna paste applied, as well as where it was applied on the body (thicker skin stains darker and longer than thin skin).[citation needed]

Likely due to the desire for a "tattoo-black" appearance, some people add the synthetic dye p-Phenylenediamine (PPD) to henna to give it a black colour. PPD may cause moderate to severe allergic reactions when applied to skin.[7]


Mehndi is a ceremonial art form common in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Nepal and Afghanistan. It is typically applied during weddings for Sikh, Muslim and Hindu brides. In Rajasthan, the grooms are given designs that are often as elaborate as those for brides. In Assam, apart from marriage, it is broadly used by unmarried women during Rongali Bihu.[citation needed]

Popular mehndi patterns

Arabic mehndi designs

This pattern is drawn on the palm. Generally, it starts from one corner of the wrist and ends at finger tip on the opposite corner. Vine, lace, and flowers are the main elements of this pattern.[citation needed]

Mandala mehndi designs

Mandala is a geometric configuration of symbols used in various spiritual traditions including Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shinto. Various configurations of Mandala are drawn on the center of palm in this mehndi pattern.[citation needed]

See also


  1. ^ a b "The next big thing on Eid is white mehndi, and I tried it - Style - Images". 24 June 2017. Retrieved 2019-04-30.
  2. ^ Chaudhri, S. K.; Jain, N. K. (2009). "History of cosmetics". Asian Journal of Pharmaceutics (AJP). 3 (3). doi:10.22377/ajp.v3i3.260 (inactive 1 August 2023). ISSN 1998-409X.((cite journal)): CS1 maint: DOI inactive as of August 2023 (link)
  3. ^ Packard, Mary (2012-10-01). Henna Sourcebook: Over 1,000 traditional designs and modern interpretations for body decorating. Race Point Publishing. ISBN 978-1-937994-08-2.
  4. ^ a b "A dictionary of Urdu, classical Hindi, and English". 2012-07-09. Archived from the original on 2012-07-09. Retrieved 2022-05-16.
  5. ^ International, Aroha (2017-10-01). "History, Origin & Cultural Significance of Henna". Aroha International. Retrieved 2021-05-27.
  6. ^ Gozubuyuk, G. S.; Aktas, E.; Yigit, N. (2014-12-01). "An ancient plant Lawsonia inermis (henna): Determination of in vitro antifungal activity against dermatophytes species". Journal de Mycologie Médicale. 24 (4): 313–318. doi:10.1016/j.mycmed.2014.07.002. ISSN 1156-5233. PMID 25442917.
  7. ^ Mukkanna, Krishna Sumanth; Stone, Natalie M; Ingram, John R (2017-01-18). "Para-phenylenediamine allergy: current perspectives on diagnosis and management". Journal of Asthma and Allergy. 10: 9–15. doi:10.2147/JAA.S90265. ISSN 1178-6965. PMC 5261844. PMID 28176912.