Mehndi

Definition - What does Mehndi mean?

Mehndi, also spelled mehendi, is the ancient art of decorating the skin using henna paste. It is also the name of the paste. The elaborate decorations are most typically done on the hands and feet. Although the use of henna as a dye appears to have originated in Egypt, its use in skin decoration may have developed in India.

Today, mehndi as an art form is practiced around the world, particularly in India, the Middle East, Africa and Asia. In India, decorating the feet and hands of the bride is a popular and often elaborate pre-wedding ceremony, but mehndi is also a part of many Hindu festivals and ceremonies. Yogis and yoginis also decorate their skin with mehndis that have symbolic significance.

Yogapedia explains Mehndi

Mehndi designs on the back of the hands are often represented as protecting images, while those on the palms conjure symbols of offering and opening. The feet represent the contact between human and earth, so designs may reflect this connection as divine.

A single point, or bindu, symbolizes the Supreme Reality and is the seed, or bija, from which all designs emanate and, symbolically, from which all creation emanates. Other significant designs include:

  • Upward-pointing triangle – Shiva, or the male principle
  • Downward-pointing triangle – Shakti, or the female principle
  • Square – Shelter, dependability and order
  • Diamond – Enlightenment
  • Circle – Perfection, wholeness and the infinite
  • Mandalas – Representing the layers of reality
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