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Thursday, March 31, 2011

A Short History of how Henna came to India and Pakistan

A short history of how Henna came to India and Pakistan.

Henna has been an integral part of Southeast Asian culture for hundreds of years but, did you know Henna actually did not come from India or Pakistan?

The first recorded use of Henna came around 7000 bce in Crete. It is thought henna was used there for bridal ceremonies. Back then there were no Mehndi designs, woman just dipped their hands and feet in Henna producing solid red palms and feet.

In fact until rather recently Henna was mostly a medicinal herb and not primarily used for making beautiful designs on people.

The first written document to mention Henna as a medicine is also one of the oldest documents archeologists have recovered. The text is called the Embres Papayrus. It is from ancient Egypt and list several medicinal uses for Henna, mostly for skin conditions.

In 1700 bce the Egyptians were the first to use Henna as a body adornment. Upper class nobility often dyed their hair and fingernails with Henna as a symbol of their high status.

Henna was such a large part of Egyptian culture that many mummies have been recovered with Henna dyed finger tips.

The use of Henna migrated east from Egypt and eventually came to India around 500 bce. Workers would dip their hands and feet in cool Henna paste to help provide some relief from the hot temperatures.

After a while the practice spread to Indians of all castes. Rich and poor alike used Henna.

The first Henna design was a round circle in the palm of the hand. This was made by mixing Henna into a dough like consistency and pressing it between the palms of the hands. It is thought that using Henna in this manner offered cooling properties without the mess of dipping the hands and feet into a bowl of Henna.

From balls of Henna people started to use sticks to apply Mendhi patterns onto the hands and feet. This became a well established practice throughout India that lead to bridal Mehndi designs by the 1930s.

Sometime in the 1980s someone in India had the great idea to place Henna in a plastic bags and to use it to apply Mehndi designs.

With the invention of the " Henna cone" Mehndi has reached new heights in design and intricacy.

Since then, Henna has spread into all cultures all over the globe.