Henna Tattoos (Mehandi) Why Desi Women love it?

5 min readMay 5, 2019

I remember the first time I got henna on my hands; I was only eleven years old. The smell and texture of henna and the way the girl was painting it on my hand, astounded me. I was amazed to see the design on my hand. It was so beautiful. It not only amplified the beauty of my hand but also eased my mind and pleased my eyes. It inspired me to learn about it.

I started practicing henna by copying different designs, but eventually, I could create my own designs. Every time it just surprised me to see my own creations. I practiced with my sisters and mother. When I was able to do it skillfully, I started my own business. So whenever there is any special occasion like Ramadan, Christmas, New Year, I take one table and two chairs and have my own stall at bazaars and markets where I create henna designs for girls and make money.

I started with Indian and Pakistani traditional designs, as they are pretty famous on the Indian subcontinent. Eventually, I learned about Arabic designs that have also become popular. Arabic designs are much easier and simple than the Indian and Pakistani designs. I can also make Somali designs now. I noticed the differences in every design. And I am learning many others.

Currently, I am residing in Phnom Penh, Cambodia (The kingdom of WONDERS!). Indeed, I’m still wondering how every other day there’s something new to learn and discover. I migrated to Cambodia in 2017 with my family, started a business, a small Indian and Pakistani Cusine. In this restaurant, we not only serve food, but we also serve a few other things from our tradition, that includes Mehandi Designs and Bollywood dance workshop. It attracts more customers and business. I remember there were many customers ending up getting one of the henna designs on their hand after having amazing food at my place. After all, the design cost starts from just 3$.

Becoming a Professional Mehandi Artist is definitely a big deal, as now I am doing this for many international schools’ events and special occasions like weddings, Diwali and any other activity that entails people all around the world and know that “There’s a Mehandi Artist in Town!”

Applying Mehandi on this beautiful woman on Women’s Day 2017 in Phnom Penh.

This activity has broadened my knowledge of art and business. Creating different designs improved my drawing and artistic skills. I have also learned many superstitious and interesting beliefs about Henna tattooing from different cultures.

Indian/Pakistani Wedding tradition calls for a Mehndi ceremony to be held the night before the wedding as a way of wishing the bride good health and prosperity as she makes her journey on to the marriage. Also, many women and brides love to write the name of their loved ones in their mehndi designs so that later they can show it to the one and ask him to find his name in those insanely flowered filling patterns. Most men failed as it’s been told and seen because henna was not really a man thing until something exceptional happened in 2016.

Ranbir Kapoor in “Channa Mereya” song

One of the most popular Bollywood actor Ranbir Kapoor (One of my celeb Crushes) in his movie “Ae Dill Hai Mushkil” has sparked off a trend of putting mehndi, an actual and proper mehndi design on both sides of his hands. Previously, in desi weddings, grooms used to put henna on their palms…only palms. But since Ranbir Kapoor was seen with those hands full of mehndi in “Channa Mereya” and “Cutiepie” songs, the internet started to break with that trend. I have seen some pictures on social media in 2017 and 2018, where grooms actually applied very bridal mehndi on their hands.
Still, not many men are going to do that because it is still considered as a female activity, urgh stereotypes!

But then there are some who just did it anyway, and those will be able to pass the challenge to find their own names in the brides’ hands.

Image result for ranbir kapoor mehndi in channa mereya
Recent grooms from 2016 to 2018 on Social Media

Additionally, I also discovered that women in old times used to apply henna on their palms and under their feet because it helped them to calm down and relieve stress, as well as some medicinal properties. The fact that it is considered auspicious makes it extremely important in several cultures. This is why the decoration of hands and feet of brides and during special occasions and festivals have become so important in India, Pakistan, and many Muslim countries.

In the end, one of my favorite facts about Mehandi is that if the color of your henna comes darker after you wash it off, that means your husband and your mother-in-law’s love will be stronger and deeper for you.

So It is commonly believed among our traditions that the darker the color of the Mehndi, the more her husband will love her.

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In my case, it always comes very very very dark!

-Princella Anum