What Is Marwari Mehndi?

Marlene de Wilde

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.

In India, the Bombay and the Marwari mehndi methods are used.
In India, the Bombay and the Marwari mehndi methods are used.

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.

Modern Western marwari mehndi is known as henna body art.
Modern Western marwari mehndi is known as henna body art.

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.

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Discussion Comments


@ysmina-- I know of a couple Marwari specialists in Chicago. If you live close to a big ciy, I'm sure you'll find one.

Actually, most, if not all Indian and Pakistani women can do mehndi. We usually ask our Indian and Pakistani friends and aunties to do it for us because it costs much less. But since Marwari is more difficult than regular mehndi, it does require specialty. If you're worried about the cost, you can ask around in the South Asian community to see if anyone can do it for you.

Otherwise, I know that some beauty salons have started to specialize in mehndi, especially if they have a lot of customers with South Asian roots. But these usually cost a lot more, up to a couple of hundred dollars per hour, but that number changes based on expertise and what you want done.


@ysmina-- Traditionally, Indian weddings last at least four days. It used to last even longer in the old days but now four days is the norm. The first day is the mehndi celebration where the groom's family and the bride's family have separate mehndi parties at their individual houses. Bot the bride and groom, as well as their close family members have mehndi done.

The second day of the wedding is the sangeet ceremony where there is music and dancing. The third day is the actual wedding and the fourth day is the reception. So there is at least a day between the mehndi ceremony and the wedding which is enough time for the mehndi to have set.

My cousin got married in India last winter and she had Marwari mehndi done on her hands, arms, feet and legs. It took six hours to finish all of her mehndi, plus around half an hour for each of the female relatives. It was a long and tiring day! My cousin's arms were paining the next day for holding them up so long! But it was a lot of fun and we all had gorgeous Marwari designs for the wedding festivities.


I'm familiar with mehndi and have had mehndi applied to my hands several times before at the mall. But I didn't know that there are different versions of it and this is the first time that I've heard of Marwari mehndi.

I think mehndi looks beautiful and I imagine that the mehndi applied to brides looks extravagant when it's finished. I wish I could have an Indian style wedding just so that I can have bridal mehndi done for it!

Since Marwari mehndi needs to be applied 48 hours before, is it done two days before the wedding day then? Is there an event or celebration that goes with the mehndi like a family get together? I really want to know more details about this!

And are there any Marwari mehndi specialists in the US?

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