Marwari mehndi is one of the two popular designs used in mehndi, or henna painting, in India. This temporary tattoo is achieved by the application of henna in complex designs with varying themes. Marwari designs consist of myriad thin patterns which leave no gap on the entire hand and can give the impression of a fine lace glove. The more modern Western versions are known as henna body art.
Traditional Indian mehndi is usually applied only to a woman's hands and feet, except for a wedding ceremony where henna can be applied to the bride, bridegroom and several other important figures in the wedding party. Mehndi can symbolize fertility, good health, wisdom and spiritual enlightenment depending on the region. It is believed that the darker the color of the henna stain, the deeper the love between the husband and wife. The application of Marwari mehndi is not only for wedding ceremonies, however, as it is also applied for many other celebrations.
There are two kinds of mehndi applications exclusive to India, which are the Bombay and the Marwari mehndi method. The former involves big elaborate patterns in a flower or peacock motif, whereas the latter feature intricate patterns. The more intricate the design, the longer the application takes, with some requiring up to five hours. If the mehndi is meant for a special occasion, it is advised to apply the henna about two days before as it takes about 48 hours before the color deepens and sets.
There are four different styles of mehendi designs depending on the origin of the style. The Middle Eastern mehndi is usually floral in nature and not consistent in pattern whereas the North African one tends to use floral patterns too but in a geometrical design. Indian and Pakistani mehndi can give the illusion of wearing gloves or socks as the paisley, teardrop or fine lacy lines can extend past wrists and ankles. Southern Asian mehndi tends to involve blocks of color on toe and finger tips.
Henna is a permanent stain on the outer layer of the skin. The only reason the application is not permanent is because the outer layer of the epidermis constantly renews itself. Depending on how often the hands or feet are washed and what kind of soap is used, Marwari mehndi usually lasts for up to two weeks. As it is tradition in India that the bride does not partake in any housework while the henna is still visible, most take great care not to scrub too hard.