Mehndi is the art of painting a person’s body with henna, a specialized type of ink. Although mehndi can be applied to various areas of the body, the color will appear darkest on the palms and the hands, and the darker a mehndi design is, the better fortune the wearer will have, it is believed. Mehndi for hands can be drawn in a variety of designs, including flower arches, peacocks, leaf chains and swirling vines. Several forms can be used when applying mehndi for hands, including Indian, Arabic, glitter and bridal mehndi. Henna jewelry, webs and a flower nets might also be applied, and the fingertips are usually blackened with henna.
Some common symbols used in mehndi for hands include the bud, the zigzag and the game. These symbols represent fertility, joy and happiness. Additionally, the design might use ripples, which represent water that brings life. Finally, the scorpion can often be found in many mehndi designs. This symbol represents the effects of love, recognized as shortness of breath, fever, glittering eyes and the pain of rejection.
Indian mehndi uses fine designs of paisley, floral and lacy patterns. Most of these patterns are derived from simple geometrical shapes and might be accented with swirls and vines. Indian mehndi, because of its intricacy, can take more time to both draw and dry than other types of mehndi for hands.
Arabic mehndi often uses large floral patterns. These designs might include flowers, stems and petals. Arabic mehndi is more commonly used because of its time-saving techniques. Additionally, the mehndi paste is thicker, which makes the color darker.
Glitter mehndi uses colored glitter gems or pearls. This form of mehndi usually lasts for only one day because of the addition of jewels. The uses of gems symbolize intelligence and spiritual enlightenment within the hand design. This type of mehndi is popular for celebration purposes.
Bridal mehndi is traditionally applied to a the hands and feet of a bride before her wedding. The designs that are used for bridal mehndi often represent fertility and love. The bride's mehndi pattern traditionally has the groom's name interwoven into it. Common lore says that if the groom does not see his name in the design, the bride will control the marriage.
Mehndi paste or henna is applied using a mehndi cone. After the paste has been applied, it can take five or more hours to completely dry. Mehndi color usually will remain for a week. After that time, it will start to gradually disappear. If a good quality mehndi powder is used, however, mehndi for hands might last for as long as 10 days.