History of Henna
The art of mehndi and henna tattoos has been around for at least the last 5,000 years, but some scholars believe the tradition can be traced back even further, going as far as 9,000 years. Ancient cultures started applying henna to the hands and feet as a way to cool down the body. Historians believe that when people became aware of the staining left behind from using henna, the idea to start putting it on in patterns and designs was born. Today, mehndi remains a very important part of important ceremonies and celebrations — including holidays, weddings and birthdays — for traditional cultures, and the practice has also become popular as a tool of self-expression in the West.
Tradition and Meaning of Mandalas
While mehndi includes the entire scope of designs, mandalas and script that is painted on the body using henna, mandalas have a special significance in this tradition. Mandalas are ornate circles believed to represent wholeness, well-being and a connection between people and the rest of the universe. Perhaps the most famous and well-recognized mandalas are those created by Tibetan monks. The monks create complicated geometric designs within the circles, often with colored sand on the ground or with paint on the walls and floors, while chanting and meditating. After the mandala is complete, the monks sweep it up and poor water over the sand grains as a way to memorialize the impermanence of existence.