Henna is a Cultural Symbol of Love

I noticed what appears to be a henna painting on my co-worker’s right arm; he recently visited Karachi and Dubai. I believed Dubai is where he had the henna painting, rode the camel, sand boarding, and smoked a hookah, all in one day.

I knew what it was because I recently read a Thai article in Koosang Koosom Magazine (photos below) about henna or mehndi, which the article describes the art of henna as the cultural symbol of love. My co-worker described the painting as the symbol of love and lust, he has scorpion henna. I asked him if it was painted by a female, and he said yes, and she is also a belly dancer. Interesting I thought and I didn’t ask him further.

According to Wikipedia, Mehndi (or Henna) is the application of henna as a temporary form of skin decoration, in South Asia, the Middle East, North Africa and Somaliland as well as expatriate communities from these areas. It is typically employed for special occasions, particularly weddings. It is usually drawn on the hands and feet, where the color will be darkest because the skin contains higher levels of keratin, which binds permanently to lawsone, also known as hennotannic acid, which is a red-orange dye present in the leaves of the henna plant.

Sonals hand by Elena

The patterns of mehndi are typically quite intricate and predominantly applied to brides before wedding ceremonies (photo below). However, traditions in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Sudan sometimes expect bridegrooms to be painted as well. In Arabic and Persian speaking countries, such as Morocco, it is done for any special occasion. It is done during the seventh month of pregnancy, after having the baby, weddings, engagements, family get-togethers, as well as many other reasons to simply celebrate an event.

The Hand That Rocks The Cradle by dahon

According to the Thai article, this is an old age tradition, it is evidenced that Egypt were the first nation to have used henna painting because they discovered henna painting on a finger, and toe of a 5,000 years old mummy. Henna is used for hair coloring, mainly to cover gray hair, and also used as herbal medicine to treat skin problems. Therefore, it is highly likely that the tradition of henna painting later on migrated to India by means of merchants, and migration due to war.

In India, henna is first used as hair coloring, then later on used to henna body for various occasions, and mainly for beauty. It is even used for occasion such as Sati, an inhumane tradition where the wife is being burned alive on her husband’s funeral pyres, even before death, she still wants to henna painting for beauty.

Khartoum2 by Johan - No Idea

Regardless of the reasons, if we were to view henna as an old age tradition of cultural design, you will see that henna is being used for various occasions, and the designs are intriguing.

H E N N A. Bidar by Claude Renault

Today, the tradition of henna painting is becoming popular amongst the westerners because tattooing is very popular, it is considered a body art as henna is viewed the same way, a body painting for joyful events, and they even take it up a notch by adding reflective colors, and sparking stones.

Unlike tattooing, the design of henna painting fades through time, which symbolically announces that nothing last forever, all good things come to an end but we still remember the memory of the good time, of having the henna painting, and looking forward to having another one.

Henna 2 by Murfomurf
henna hands by hazel7
SpringFling2008 by harmony henna

I told my female co-workers that according to the ancient tradition, females that have henna painted on their hands will not have to do any household shores until the henna is faded, and all of a sudden, I had hands in front of me, they are ready for henna painting.


  1. I loved your post about mehndi, I love that kind of art. I am in the process of learning, that is why I am always looking for information, yours was very interesting, thank you!


  2. Hi Inlove0395, thanks for the visit. I also think the concept is interesting, and by blogging about mehndi, I’m learning something new and have a better understanding of other culture as well, wish you best of luck with mehndi art. 🙂

  3. I have had many experiences with mehndi, encluding about seven weddings. Every time I get mehndi done I remember the excitement and the joy of the first time. Your article reminded me of all those times. Thank you.

  4. Hi lorrilexi, thanks for the visit, I’ve never had one before and could only imagine what it would be like, if giving the opportunity, I will definitely have one done and thanks for your comment because sometimes I don’t know if I’m writing it like the way it should be since I don’t have first hand experience.

  5. we always do henna in occasions 🙂 … like Eid, Weddings and so on … by the way i’m from UAE … I love the henna photos you published !! … ^_^ …

  6. Hi lil.D84, Henna is indeed a cultural symbol, and thanks for confirming that it’s still popular in United Arab Emirates (UAE.) I like your blog, seems very cheerful and happy, but too bad I can’t read. Thanks for the visit, I’m glad that you like this post. 🙂

  7. Hey i like this blog, the important thing is you have displayed variety of designs……..I am henna artist and it very exciting art………………

    I am in des plines il and if any one want it i can get you done…………

  8. Hi henna, thanks for the visit. I find the concept interesting, and I will email to let you know if I had any inquiry about getting it done.

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