Mehendi capers at night-July 22, 2012
Haryali Teej. The festival that celebrates the rain in the Hindu month of Saawan. When we appreciate the renewal of life, celebrate fertility, thank God for rain and pray for continued prosperity and abundance.
Green dominates. Women dress in traditional attire. Bangles, bindis, jewellery. And Mehendi.
To me, any excuse is a good one to put Mehendi (a henna tattoo) on my hands. A tradition that perhaps came to the Indian subcontinent from central Asian cultures, today henna marks auspicious occasions across North India. Thanks to the influence of cinema and tv, the Mehendi ceremony is a standard feature of weddings in many parts of the country. In Delhi, you can get a henna tattoo in most city markets on any day of the year, sitting by the roadside while a young man (yes it’s mostly men) adorns your palms with intricate traditional patterns.
I have been as fond of getting the tattoo as of making it come alive on another’s palms. Tonight, it was a most excited Aadyaa who demanded Mehendi from me. She sat there patiently and got both palms patterned over, appreciating the art, giggling at the cool sensation the henna creates, truly happy. Then she watched me adorn my left palm and promised to decorate my right palm tomorrow after she returns from school! Next in line was Amma, my mother in law, who patterned her left palm on her own while I did the right one.
While I would often get henna tattoos in the markets before, in recent years I have been happier doing this little ritual at home or among friends. The designs may be imperfect but the shared bonhomie, laughter and warmth is incomparable.