Symbolism in Mehndi

Borrowing from other cultures, either out of admiration, personal conviction or for fashion, is nothing new; it’s been around since East first met West. From tribal tattoos to dreadlocks, we see a blend as mostly young generation seeks a more spiritual contract with the ancient and each other. However, before you begin adorning yourself because it ‘looks cool’ or it’s the latest fad, it’s important to know a little about the meaning and the history behind the art or style.

Mehndi is one of the more popular forms of a body art, traditional used in weddings and at religious celebrations in the far and Middle East. Today it’s been made into a fashion trend by the popularity of Bollywood films and pop artists like Gwen Stefani, as well as the increasing globalization of society as a whole. Mehndi is more than just a temporary henna tattoo that looks pretty, there’s a distinct meaning behind both the types of designs and their placement.

HANDS

The majority of simple mehandi designs will be found in various placements on the hands and wrists. Traditionally, these designs are done at weddings, mainly for the bride, or as a sign of a girl’s coming of age in some Eastern societies. A design on the back of the hand stands for protection, and a symbol painted on the palm symbolizes opening up or an offering; it’s usually of a flower or sun. The right hand is masculine and the right is feminine and receptive; both hands mean a balance of those characteristics.

FEET

A Mehndi design on the feet characterizes the point where the spiritual and the material meet; it is the intersection or joining of the human and the Divine.

PLANTS AND ANIMALS

In general, small birds are messengers that are bringing tidings between the heavens and earth. Swans are signs of success, and peacocks are beauty and majesty. Insects like dragon flies and butterflies mean transformation and rebirth. Flowers, vines and buds demonstrate beauty, a long life and joy. A sun, moon and stars design shows the promise of everlasting love between partners.

There are plenty of tutorials, videos and websites like Craftsvilla that will give you information on the history and meaning of Mehndi designs from around the world. Decorative body art has been around nearly as long as humankind itself. It’s the ultimate form of self-expression that symbolizes the awakening of an inner light, though each design – and it’s placement – can mean something very personal to the wearer.