Blog by Namita Rajani
Have you ever sat down and wondered how the tradition of Henna tattoos started? If not, then you belong to the 99.99% of the population. Just like me. But since my sister Vineeta started her Henna business, I felt inclined to learn more about it.
A quick search on Wikipedia and Google and I found some interesting facts about the history of Henna tattoos. Henna, as a way of dyeing hair and skin, has been used since 4th century BC. Ancient Egyptians used it to stain the fingers and toes of the Pharaohs before mummifying them, Moroccans used it to dye wool and leather goods, and Romans used it to color their hair. It is believed that Cleopatra was one of the first women who made henna popular. She used it to decorate her body with henna tattoos and, in her quest to marry Julius Caesar and eventually falling in love with Mark Antony, spread the art of henna from Egypt to Rome to Morocco. In India and Pakistan, henna or, as it is more commonly called, mehndi, has been around for over 5,000 years. One source says that it was first used as a natural air-conditioner to cool people’s bodies, and when they saw that henna left stains on their bodies, they started making designs for decorative purposes. According to Hindu Vedic ritual books, staining bodies using turmeric and henna was intended to be a symbolic representation of the outer and inner sun. As per one classic tradition, since there was no formal coming-of-age ceremony for young girls in India and Pakistan, their weddings were their rites of passage. To celebrate this, and to adorn and beautify them, women started using henna to decorate their bodies. And probably that is how the culture of putting henna on hands and feet during festivities and weddings evolved.
Now that I know the history of Henna tattoos, I not only feel like a part of the tradition initiated by people who inhabited the earth thousands of years ago but also appreciate its beauty even more. For my next tattoo, I’m thinking Cleopatra’s design. What about you?