Elements of Mehndi Design

Elements of Mehndi Design 7

How can one describe henna designs? Mysterious, splendid, artistic, creative, combining tradition with modern trends. In this article, we will do a deep dive into the elements of mehndi design. More specifically, we will look at the building blocks of the henna designs, their significance, origins and trends.

For the brides looking for inspiration, please visit our comprehensive article on mehndi designs.

Beliefs About Henna Motifs

Each motif it is believed to bring hope, joy, love and keep the bad spirits way. Most people believe that the longer the henna pattern lasts, the life care the person wearing it will be.

Indian Henna Design

Indian Mehndi Designs

Indian designs reform around a central element. The base of the design is a circle, square or rectangular element. From the central element,the artists work out surrounding designs and patterns. These cover the forearms, hands and the feet and ankles of the bride and include lotus and Moghul flowers, sunflowers, lilies of the valley, roses, daisies, irises, mangoes, vines, leaves, drops, waves, spirals, paisley motifs, stars, tendril patterns, nets and elements of jewellery.

A distinctive characteristic of the Indian patterns is that a large portion of the skin is covered with very little space left. Also, it is important to note that the designs can be mirrored or complementary. Often, the portraits of the bride and groom are included in the design. They are drawn facing each other or looking away from one another.

In Indian patterns, it is customary for the Hannah artist to include the name of the groom ( or his initials).

Generally, the designs are applied during the mehendi party when the bride and her friends enjoy good music, good food, dancing while henna artists draw their art. The groom is not supposed to attend the party but will carefully examine the drawings, searching for his name.

What would a traditional wedding be without superstitions? Brides believe that the darker the henna color, the deeper the love of the groom for the bride and the more durable their relationship will be.

To achieve that dark color the brides use a series of tricks among which one is to apply black henna. That practice is dangerous because often black henna contains paraphenylenediamine or PPD, a dangerous chemical that poses risks ranging from allergies and blisters to scars and burns.

We do not endorse using black henna and would like to inform you that there have been cases where the brides had to be hospitalized when PPD based pastes were used.

Certain patterns are only used for wedding ceremonies. Among them the most prevalent are the traditional elements such as the ceremonial pitcher, the hearts, the swastika and and the peacock. Also, elements from the nature such as fish, parrots, butterflies, elephants are also common in the wedding patterns.

Elements of Mehndi Design 9

The Circle

In India, the circle or mandala (the Sanskrit word for circle) is a sacred symbol and represents perfection, wholeness, oneness, balance, continuity, eternity and these used as a map representing different gods. Often, the portraits of the bride and groom are inscribed in a circle. The Hindus believe that the symbol transmits peace and has the healing effect.

The Square Patterns

In Hinduism, the square signifies stability, the Earth and the man. Also the star of Lakshmi is composed of two squares placed at 45° from each other.

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Bindi - The Dot

One of the most recognizable signs of Hindus, the bindi (the dot) is often worn on the women's foreheads and appears in mehndi patterns. It represents feminine energy and protects the husbands.

The Om Sign

The Om sign is one of the most important Hindu elements and is found in many sacred books.

The Swastika

The swastika stands for good luck and fortune, honesty and purity. Sadly, in the second world war it became a symbol of terror and domination.

The Seven Chakras

With the advent of yoga and eastern spirituality, it is very common nowadays for the brides to embed  in their menu design one of the seven chakras: the third eye, the Crown, the throat, the heart, the solar plexus, the sacral chakra and the root.

Nature Inspired Patterns

The Peacock

The peacock is the national bird and distinct symbol of India. It represents love, desire and his feathers bring good luck. In the Hindu mythology the Peacock is a sacred bird and appears in several holy Scriptures.

The peacock is able to kill snakes so it also represents protection from bad spirits.

The Lotus Flower

The lotus flower is a symbol of purity, eternity, divinity, life, eternal youth,  and it has a distinct place among the mehendi elements. Because it re-blooms every morning it is seen as a symbol of rebirth.

Deities such as Lakshmi (the goddess of good fortune, fertility and prosperity) is often portrayed holding lotus flowers in her hands.

For the Buddhists, the white lotus flowers denote purity while the yellow flowers suggest spiritual advancement.

Elements of Mehndi Design 11

Conch Shell

Buddhists believe that the sound the conch shell makes protects from bad spirits. For them the shell epitomizes the voice of Buddha.

The Hindus associate the Shankha (conch shell) with God Vishnu, the guardian of humanity. The shell is believed to bring prosperity, purity, courage, truth, power and a long life. Also, the beginning of the spiral denotes a new era in someone's life. The gods Lakshmi and Visnu carry a conch hence its sacred meaning.

The shell spiral follows the Fibonacci golden ratio and many cultures believe the spiral is the symbol of creation.

The Paisley Patterns

This pattern abounds in the Indian patterns and the shape denote a mango, a flame, the Cypress tree, the tree of life. For Zoroastrians paisley stands for life and eternity.

It is important to note that the pattern originated from Asia, but its name is derived from a town in Scotland where the fabric adorned with paisley patterns was made. In India, the shape represents fertility.

Flowers and Flower Buds Patterns

Many henna designs include flowers such as: the sunflower, the lily of the valley, daisy, lotus, rose and irises. In many cultures including Hindu the flower buds symbolize new beginnings, fertility, renewal, future joy and abundance.

Animals, Birds and Fish

The most common animal designs are those of elephants (a symbol of power, stability, wisdom, patience and loyalty, good luck and achievement.) One of the most important Hindu Gods Ganesha takes the form of an elephant.

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The snakes are a reminder to live in the moment. Also, because they shed their skin the snake represent rebirth and immortality. They also denote passion, sexual desire, fertility and were venerated across the centuries and cultures.

The scorpions are also featured in the henna patterns and represent love.

One of the symbols of fidelity is the pair of fish and it appears quite often in henna patterns. Another bird denoting fidelity is the swan.

Arabic Mehndi Designs

The main difference between the Indian patterns and the Arabic mehndi  designs consist in the elements used in the surface of the skin covered. The Arabic designs are on the minimalist side and leave plenty of negative space between elements to complement the beautiful drawings.

Many Arabic mehndi designs include flowers leaves, mathematical and geometric shapes, flowers, leaves, birds, the hand in the eye of course, arabesque patterns.

Here is another distinction between the Arabic mehndi designs and those from other parts of the world. It is very common for brides in the Middle East to dye their fingernails with henna.

One of the most important elements found in Arabic mehndi designs is the hand and the eye symbol. In Islam, this symbol consists of a hand that features an eye in the middle of the palm and is designed to protect against the evil eye. This symbol is known as the khmasa or "the five."

The Muslims believe that Fatima, the daughter of Prophet Mohamed was the first person who drew this symbol. As such, the hand represents Fatima's hand.

Egyptian Symbols

Scholars believe that the Egyptians were the ones who first used in a for medicinal and aesthetic purposes. The knot of Isis, the Ankh (the Egyptian hieroglyph meaning life), the cat, the pharaoh, the serpent, the lotus flower, the all seeing eye are only a few Egyptian elements included in today's mehendi designs.

Persian Elements

The Persians contributed elements from their own culture to simple henna patterns. Among the many Persian symbols, the most frequently used are snakes, peacocks, eagles, roosters, dogs, camels, ducks, dragons, diamonds, weavers, trees, trees of life, crosses, tulips, lotuses and cypress trees.

Chinese Symbols

The Chinese contribution to Hana drawings is very important and among the most important building elements are animals from the Chinese zodiac: the Tiger, the Dragon, Ox, Rabbit, Snake, Horse, Monkey, Dog, Goat, Rooster, Pig. The flowers, insects, other animals and of course Chinese characters or Hansi/Kanji can be often found in Chinese inspired designs.

African Patterns

The henna plant grows abundantly in Africa and the Amazigh population ( also known as Berbers) use bold symbols that are believed to have supernatural powers.

Because in Islam idolatry is a sin, the Berbers patterns are highly stylized when representing humans, plants or animals. Many African designs are abstract representations of the sun, the moon, salamander, bull, man, diamond, the arrow, etc.

In other parts of Africa we find shields, lions, elephants, antelopes, bows and arrows and other motifs from nature.

Adinkra Mehndi Designs

In Cote D'Ivoire and Ghana, a distinct style has emerged to include day-to-day objects, animals and sayings. The crocodile, the turtle, the lion, the swords, handcuffs, war horns, wooden comb, stars, flowers and many other symbols dominate the Adinkra imagery.

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Runes

In the Scandinavian and in the Anglo-Saxon world, the runes are simple symbols that have magic powers.

Buddhist Motifs

The Buddhist contribution to the mehndi designs is significant in the are symbols of prosperity and spiritual perfection. For example the first symbol is The Wheel. Its spokes embody the end of suffering. Next, we have the Conch Shell, which protects us from evil spirits. The Lotus stands for spiritual perfection while The Parasol shields us from malefic powers. A Pair of Fishes is a sign of fidelity while The Knot signifies eternity, connection and wisdom.

Last and very important symbols of Buddhism are The Vase of Sacred Water which expresses the satisfaction of desires and The Banner of Victory that communicates Buddhist victory over the immoral behaviors and weakness of character.

Japanese Imagery

The Japanese cultural elements are well represented in henna designs. Among the most prevalent imagery we have the Yin Yang symbol, Kanji characters, images of clouds, waves, willow trees and of course sakura, the cherry tree flower that conveys purity, beauty, death and renewal.

zodiac signs used in mehndi designs

Greek Signs

Many brides today choose  to embed their Greek zodiac sign into the mehndi design. Here are the signs of the Greek zodiac used to adorn the brides' skin: Aries (the Ram), Taurus (the Bull), Gemini (the Twins), Cancer (the Crab), Leo (the Lion), Virgo {the Virgin), Libra (the Scale), Scorpio (the Scorpion), Sagitarius (the Archer), Capricorn (the Goat), Aquarius (the Waterbearer) and Pisces (the Fish).

Other symbols commonly found in men the patterns are the Minotaur, the olive tree in other characters from the Greek mythology.

Eastern European Art

Eastern Europeans elements of culture can also be found in henna designs. Decorated eggs originated around 3000 years BCE as a symbol of rebirth. Nowadays they're mostly used as Easter eggs and are symbols of good luck.

Other Eastern European elements are the lily flower, the rose, the deer, the horse, the ram, the chicken as well as floral motifs.

 

Celtic Knot

The Celtic Knot

The Celtic knot has no beginning or end and it is a symbol of continuity and eternal love, so important in a marriage.

Native American Signs

It is not uncommon for Native American signs to be included in henna designs. They are the Buffalo, the bow and arrow, the beaver, the deer, the crow, the cloud, canoe, the bear, beaver and beaver tail, the boar, fish, mountain, village, river, and forest, the sun, the man and the woman.

Celestial Bodies

Celestial bodies are omnipresent in mehndi designs around the world. The sun is worshiped by many cultures as the origin of life, power and creativity while the moon represents feminine energy, fertility, pregnancy birth and wisdom. The moon cycle it is similar to that of the seed and many people consider the moon sacred.

Conclusion

Today's brides have a variety of imagery available to them. From simple Viking runes to elegant Arabic mehndi designs or patterns from India, the only limit is the brides imagination in the artists skills.

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