The Mehndi Tradition


My husband and I were married in a Christian wedding ceremony.  Like most American young girls, I had fantasized about my white wedding dress for years.  I wanted a silk, lacy dress with a train that trailed behind me like a princess, a gauzy veil on my head, and a fragrant bouquet of white roses in my hands as I walked down the aisle with my father.  Our wedding did fulfill my dreams, and united us in holy matrimony.  But I did not realize at the time, that without an Indian ceremony, we had missed out on an opportunity to begin unification of our families.

An interesting practice for Indian weddings is the use of henna art, or mehndi, on the hands and feet of the bride and her female family members.  The American bride and her attendants may get manicures and professional make up applications for the ceremony, but Indian brides take things a step further with mehndi.  The tradition of mehndi application goes back thousands of years and unites the bride’s family in tradition and beauty for the ceremony, as my husband’s gorgeous cousin did, pictured above.  It lasts for weeks and serves as a lingering reminder for women of their shared culture, even as they live their lives in the “outside” world.

At the time of our wedding, my only connection to Indian culture was through my new husband.   But as our families have melded together, so have I melded into a new relationship with the women in his family.   I am the bhabhi, or sister-in-law, to many, and I am the mother of a beautiful young woman, who looks like her Indian grandmother.   If I ever do choose to take part in the mehndi tradition, I think I will wear it proudly as a symbol of my place in our family.

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6 thoughts on “The Mehndi Tradition

  1. I look forward to reading each of your blogs and encourage you to continue. I also love seeing the pictures of your beautiful family (my extended family).

    • Thank you for your kind words! I enjoy doing it. I would love it if you subscribe to the blog. The link to subscribe is at the top of the homepage. Take care!

    • That is a very good question! She has gone from wishing she had blonde hair when she was four years old, to planning to wear a sari to her high school homecoming dance at age sixteen. As she gets older, she seems to be embracing both sides of her heritage, so I hope she considers incorporating Indian traditions into her own wedding. As her parents, we will certainly encourage her to honor both sides of herself.

  2. As the mother of a mixed heritage young girl, I see my own daughter change her feelings and relationship to both her inherited cultures (Indian and American). The lovely thing is that change happens everyday and every season and seamlessly depending on where she is at in relationship to her friends (at 10 friends are very, very, very important). On occasions she seeks to be different or special, I see her embracing her Indian side and for everyday stuff it is all about fitting in, at school in the American way (yes, including those awful Justice clothes… aaaghhh). Nobody in the family sees the chameleon changes as separate facets to her personality and life. It is what she is. Two, wonderful things to choose from anytime of day or night or season. I hope my own daughter will wear a long dress AND mehendi on her hands, and be happy with the combination.

    • I think it is so great that you allow her the opportunity to explore the facets of herself. Your right that kids go through such changes in seeking their own identities as they grow, and as a parent it is such a joy to watch them.
      I remember those Justice clothes…just wait until high school, when the three-inch heels and skinny jeans come into play!

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