The botanical term for henna is Lawsonia inermis. Henna is the Persian name for a hedge-like,bushy tree that has been cultivated for millennia mainly for its opposing, smooth, lance-shaped leaves. When these leaves are dried, crushed, and made into a paste, they yield a natural orange to brown-red temporary colour or stain.
Many uses for henna

Henna is recognized as a dye plant, a cosmetic, a cosmetic, a medicine and a measure of protection from evil influences. Customarily applied for ceremonial occasions and celebrations, it is used on the parts of the body most associated with external sensory contact – the hands, the feet, and the hair.

The Indian mehindi tradition

Henna is believed to be brought to India by Persian horses as early as A.D. 712 and has been harvested in Rajasthan since around 1476! The use of mehndi or henna became a significant part of Indian folk art used on new brides to distinguish them from unmarried young virgins. Needless to say it flourished thereafter as a decorative art in India. Hindus consider mehndi as very dear to Lakshmi, Goddess of Wealth and Fortune, and associate the henna bush with luck and prosperity.

Henna is used by many cultures namely; Indian, Pakistani, North African, Arabian, Yemenite, Egyptian, Greek, Hebrew, Latin, Sumatran, Taiwanese, Turkish, Javanese Armenian Christian and many, many more. Over centuries each culture used the art of picture to symbolise various aspects in their lives. Below is a list of symbolisms associated with some common designs incorporated in the art of henna.

  • Flowers : vitality
  • Waves/water : abundance           
  • Checkerboards : playful mood
  • Peacocks/parrots : longing for a departed lover, loving nature
  • Eyes : power to protect
  • Vines : spirit of dedication, high spirited, productive
  • Orange blossoms : purity, chastity, generosity: traditionally worn by brides
  • Paisley : abundance
  • Yin-Yang : balance in life
  • Chalice : continuity, represents God as the unbroken line

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