Mehandi design is a popular form of body art that has deep cultural significance going back for centuries. There is some dispute as to its origins; In Egypt, mummies with Mehndi-like henna designs on the hands and fingernails have been discovered, and in ancient Vedic texts, it’s described as turmeric-based dye that’s used as part of wedding and other religious ceremonies and festivals.
There are kits that contain pre-filled Mehndi cones, but brushes or the type of plastic bottles used for fabric paint are common also. If you want to do it the organic way, here’s a simple recipe for home made Mehndi dye that will give you the basis for a lasting, vibrant design.
To make a home made henna dye, you’ll need:
Henna powder, available online or an an Indian grocery
Essential oil; most use teat tree, lavender or eucalyptus oil (it helps make the stain darker)
Small mixing bowl and spoon, non-metallic for both
Sift about 1/4 cup of henna powder into a bowl, and then add 1/4 of lemon juice. Make sure to stir it as you add the lemon juice to remove all the lumps and get a nice, smooth paste. Add 1/2 teaspoon each of sugar and essential oil; this should give you a nice, silky paste. The last step is to cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let the mixture ‘mature’ for 24 hours. Temperature can affect the quality of the dye, so place it someplace that’s not too hot or cold.
When you purchase henna powder, make sure that it’s a nice, even shade of greenish-brown; if it’s too far on the brown side, that means that it’s old and won’t stain well, and too green = ‘doctored to look fresher’ or it’s from a less mature plant; extra powder can be stored in a zip-lock bag in the freezer.
Henna dye can be applied to almost any body part, but it’s traditionally used on the hands, feet and fingernails in the cultures where it originates. There are also a variety of simple mehendi designs that are used in Mehndi, each with its own special meaning.. You can find more information about this tradition, as well as templates for designs and what each one means, online in places like Craftsvilla, YouTube and on cultural websites.