While shopping in a Sogo's store in Cumming Street, in Suva, I came across a woman drawing an incredible design with mendhi (also known as mehandi, or henna) on a customer.
The first time I was introduced to mendhi mainstream was in the mid-to-late 90's when Gwen Stefani, lead singer of No Doubt, wore the traditional Indian designs on her hands.
Then I saw Madonna's mendhi designs in her music video, "Frozen." Like many teenage girls at the time, I was enthralled and tried to imitate my pop idols with a home kit.
The results weren't exactly how they looked on TV, due to my lack of skill, but it was still enchanting to have these semi-permanent designs on my hands and feet.
The chance to get it professionally done, and at a good price at that, was too good to pass up. At anywhere from $5-$100, depending on the intricacy and size, Mrs. Usha Chauhan will create beautiful works of art on your hands, arms, ankles, feet, and around your belly button.
Mrs. Chauhan gets her mendhi paste direct from India, assuring authenticity and quality of the paste.
Mendhi, a stain derived from the dried leaves of the henna plant and the ancient art of applying intricate designs on the hands, arms, and feet of women, are used in traditional Indian, Arabic, and African ceremonies such as weddings and religious festivals like Diwali (the Indian Festival of Light). It is a particularly important aspect of Indian weddings.
The bride's hands, feet, and sometimes thighs are covered with the designs and Mrs. Chauhan says that sometimes the patterns include the groom's name. On the wedding night, the bride asks her groom to find his name.
The groom is also decorated with mendhi patterns that are similar to his bride's, but not as intricate.
To use mendhi, the dried leaves of the henna plant are ground and mixed with tea and a few drops of oil (jasmine, eucalyptus, clove, and even olive or corn oil are used), and is made into a paste.
This paste is then applied onto the skin and drawn into beautiful patterns, much like decorating a cake with icing.
The paste, a greyish-green to greenish -brown colour while wet, dries in a few hours to a dark brown colour.
The longer the paste remains on the skin, the more it will seep into the skin, creating a more intense stain.
Depending on the paste, the time it is left on your skin, and your skin itself, the stain usually lasts about 2 weeks.