One of the most important pre-wedding ceremonies in Indian marriages is the ‘Mehendi ki raat’. It is not only a fun pre-wedding ritual but also has a deep-rooted cultural significance to it.
Applying mehendi to the bride and the groom before the wedding, is one of the oldest Indian traditions. The ceremony, however, entails an elaborate application of mehendi designs on a bride’s hands and feet. As for the groom, a mere token of application of henna is a mark of good omen.
As a wedding tradition, it is followed in many part of India as well as in neighbouring countries of Pakistan, Bangladesh and Nepal. Mehendi is quite popular among Muslims as well. According to Islamic literature, Prophet Muhammad used mehendi to dye his beard and administered its use to those who were unwell. Because of this, mehendi ceremony is an important pre-wedding ritual, observed in the Indian subcontinent and many Arabic nations.
Mehendi represents the bond of matrimony and is therefore, considered a ‘shagun’. It signifies the love and affection between the couple and their families.
Here are some popular beliefs that are associated with this tradition:
The darkness of the mehendi colour on a bride’s hand represents the deep love between the would-be-couple.
The mehendi colour also shows the love and understanding between the bride and her mother-in-law.
The longer the mehendi retains its colour, the more auspicious it is for the newlyweds.
Mehendi is also deemed to be a symbolic representation of fertility.
Mehendi or henna is known for its medicinal properties. It has a cooling effect that aids in soothing stress, headaches and fevers. Mehendi herb is also very beneficial for growth of nails. So, mehendi is applied to relieve the bride and groom of all the wedding stress. It also protects them from any viral diseases before the wedding.
The mehendi ceremony is a colourful, musical and lively celebration. Different families have different customs during the ceremony. It is usually held a day before the wedding ceremony and is often combined with ‘sangeet’ ceremony.
The bride and other females in the family get decorative mehendi designs on their hands and feet. It is an occasion for both parties to have some fun, mixed with the usual dancing and feasting.
In the intricate design of the bride's mehendi, the groom’s name or his initials are also hidden. During the post-wedding ceremonies, the groom has to find his initials in the bride's hands. This is a fun ice-breaking game for the couple, which also helps them to establish some intimacy.
The traditional patterns of mehendi have become more and more intricate and decorative with time. There are now many types of mehendi patterns, most popular ones being the Arabic and Rajasthani designs. Mehendi is now even applied with ornaments, like crystals and sparkles. Each beautiful design has degrees of intricacy and can be made unique for the bride. These intricate design patterns are now quite popular among brides, worldwide.
Mehendi is also an important part of other special cultural occasions, such as Karva Chauth, Diwali and other Indian festivals. But as a tradition, mehendi holds a deep-rooted cultural and social place in the weddings.