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Date [ 2013-02-20, 14:50 ]

The bride decorated at the Mehndi Party

(Kuala Lumpur=Koreanpress) by Ramani Ratir = Tattooing has long been popular in the West. Most major cities in America and Europe have their tattoo parlours. Nowadays you can also find these shops in Asian cities. Kuala Lumpur has some in its Chinatown.The capital has also the alternative to tattooing, HENNA!  This is the Asian traditional form of temporary tattooing.

There are no plush parlours where clients can sit in comfort and have the body work done on them. More often than not, there will just be a table with two chairs, one for the henna artist and the other for the customer. The table may be set up in the open air or in a small space in a shopping complex or a saree shop. Well set-up henna parlours have yet to put in an appearance. On the table, there will be a worn out album with drawings of the henna designs from which a choice can be made. The usual designs are floral or abstract. Clients can also tell the henna artist, usually a woman, to just draw whatever she feels like. The clients too are more often than not, women.
Henna is a natural dye that people have been using since the Bronze Age to stain their skin, fingernails and hair. Fabrics, including silk and wool, as well as leather, have henna applied to them for colouring. In Morocco it is used on drumheads as well.

The dry powder is mixed with lemon juice, strong tea or other mildly acidic liquids to make a preparation with toothpaste-like consistency, which can be used to make finely detailed body art. The henna mix must rest for 6 to 24 hours before use, to release the lawsone molecules from the leaf matter. The lawsone is what gives henna its colour.

Henna remains a popular beauty aid till today! When tattooing, it is applied to the surface of the hand or feet as a black paste. One must stay very still so the artist does not smudge the design as she works on it. After the design is complete, one will need to leave it on for at least 30 minutes – the longer you leave the henna on, the darker the henna tattoo will be. When the henna starts to flake off, it is a sign that it is dry and can be washed off. The skin will initially be stained a reddish brown colour or a burgundy, wherever the henna had been applied but the colour will darken with time.

In Indian culture, getting a henna tattoo is a must before a wedding.For the bride, the mehndi (henna) day is very important. Her house is decorated with flowers with friends and family filling up the house. There is music and dancing.  Playing an important part in the celebrations is the Bridal Mehndi. The henna used, is said to have “Barakah,"(blessings.) It is therefore applied for luck as well as joy and beauty. On that day, the bride's feet and palms are decorated with beautiful, intricate henna designs. It signifies the strength of love in the marriage. Thus the bride tries to keep the mehndi on as long as possible.

Brides typically have the most complex patterns. As those in Yemen, where the Jewish bridal henna process takes four or five days to complete, with multiple applications and resist work. The fashion of "Bridal Mehndi" in Pakistan, Northern Libya and the Indian Diasporas is currently growing in complexity and elaboration, with new innovations in glitter, gilding, and fine-line work. Recent technological innovations in grinding, sifting, temperature control and packaging henna, as well as government encouragement for henna cultivation, have improved dye content and artistic potential for henna.

Henna also acts as an anti-fungal and a preservative for leather and cloth, especially in keeping mildew at bay, The flowers have been used to create perfume since ancient times, and henna perfume is experiencing resurgence. It also repels some insect pests.

Today, talented contemporary henna artists can command high fees for their work. In countries, where women are discouraged from working outside the home, thriving home henna businesses are done. Many women may work as a team for a large wedding where hundreds of guests will be hennaed as well as the bride and groom.
Thus, though began thousands of years ago, the henna still continues to play an integral part in the communities where it is found.
The Henna plant in India

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