Mendhi is a form of body art that dates back to ancient India, during which decorative designs are created on the hands and feet of the bride on the day before her wedding. The mendhi is a paste which is made from the powdered dry leaves of the henna plant which, when the decoration has dried becomes a reddish-brown colour. Although originally confined to the hands and feet, it may also decorate the forearms up to the elbows.
The mendhi is applied by a mendhi artist, although in times past it was applied by a married female relative of the bride, and the ceremony is one during which the female relatives of the bride get together and party. However, there are no strict rules, and today the groom and some of his relatives may attend, and indeed the groom may be decorated with mendhi as well. Nonetheless, the ceremony is largely a girls’ day out.
Mendhi stages, which are where the bride sits while the henna paste is applied, can be extremely decorative, and are often created in the same way as the wedding stage will be on the next day, with plush seating for the bride – and possibly the groom – and plenty of drapes and flowers and so on. In the summer, the mendhi ceremony is often held outside in the garden, but it can be in the bride’s home or at any other venue. It is a day full of laughter and joy, fun, games, song, and dance.
When the bride has had her mendhi painted on – which can easily take a couple of hours, depending on the intricacy of the designs – she is ready to party, and other female members of the family may also vie to get the latest henna designs on their hands and feet as well.
The mendhi venue will be decorated with lots of colour, not just the mendhi stage but the whole venue. Flowers can be used dramatically, and the more of them the better. You can have fun installations such as a much-decorated rickshaw, although bikes and scooters are quite often used. There may well be a photobooth, and many of the ceremonies will have live performers who may sing, dance, or even tell jokes.
Of course, there will be plenty to eat and drink – a mendhi ceremony will often take all day and may go on into the evening, although not too late because tomorrow is the wedding ceremony itself.