By- Yamini Sharma
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Yamini Sharma


Why is 'Heena' culture limited to a few countries only?


The word 'Heena' is derived from the Arabic word Al-Hinna. It is obtained from a plant whose leaves are to dye skin and hair, this happens because of the presence of an agent called Tannis. It is popular around the world by different names such as Al-henna,Henne, Al-khanna, Jamaica Mignonette, Medika, etc. Whereas in India, it is popular by the name 'mehandi'. Women of all ages apply different  variations of Mehandi patterns namely Indian bridal mehandi designs, Arabic mehandi designs, Pakistani designs etc.

Heena culture is famous in India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Middle East, African Sub-continents etc. In Afghanistan, it is believed to bring happiness and good luck. Though the origin of Heena culture is difficult to trace due to the migration of people all around. Some researches argue that henna originated in ancient India, while others claim it was brought to India by Egyptian mughals but certain evidences prove that henna usage in India was way before the Mughal invasion. Archaeological research indicates henna was used in ancient Egypt to stain the fingers and toes of Pharaohs prior to mummification.

Heena in Indian culture

Mehendi's popularity lies in its fun value. No lifetime commitment like real tattoos, no artistic skills required, no pain or other requirements as such. Heena in India find places in various traditions and adds necessary aesthatics to the occasion, celebrations like Engagement ceremony, weddings, on occasions of observing fasts such as Karwa Chauth, Teej, Diwali, Eid etc. During hindu weddings, it is considerd as the most auspicious ornament.

Though people are adjusting and adopting various cultures from around the world, the 'Heena Culture' still is not moving to the mainstream yet to many countries. People who actually are embracing it are adopting the transformed version of it. The Western countries are embracing this culture as a temporary tattoo since it can be made to resemble a real tattoo but it comes without the long term commitment or pain. The art of heena is being redefined and becoming an instance of cultural appropriation despite not having any malicious intentions. This has been an issue of serious discussion. It should be noted that 'heena culture' term is just used for marketing purpose, heena does not tattoo the skin and cannot be considered as tattooing.

*Cultural appropriation is a term used when someone adopts elements of another culture while remaining ignorant about the culture and the implications of their actions.

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