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The different words for henna in ancient languages imply that henna had more than one point of discovery and origin, and different pathways of daily and ceremonial use. With its artistic application on the skin, henna has become an important expression of grand culture.
The earliest known evidence of henna being used was discovered on the hands of Egyptian mummies from 5,000 years ago. Henna was celebrated by most groups in the areas where henna grew naturally: Jews, Muslims, Hindus, among others, all celebrated marriages by adorning the bride, and often the groom, with henna.
Mehndi History and CultureAcross the henna-growing region, Henna has been used to adorn young women's bodies as part of social and holiday celebrations for centuries. Even favorite horses, donkeys, and salukis had their hooves, paws, and tails henna'ed. Battle victories, births, circumcision, birthdays, Zar, as well as weddings, usually included some henna as part of the celebration. Where there was joy, there was henna.
Henna was regarded as having "Barakah," blessings, and was applied for luck as well as joy and beauty. Brides typically had the most henna, and the most complex patterns, to support their greatest joy, and wishes for luck. Some bridal traditions were very complex, such as those in Yemen, where the Jewish bridal henna process took four or five days to complete, with multiple applications and resist work.
Henna is now commercially cultivated in western India, Pakistan, Morocco, Yemen, Iran, Afghanistan, Somalia, Sudan, Libya, Egypt, and Banglades. Though henna has been used for body art and hair dye since the Bronze Age, henna has had a recent renaissance in body art due to improvements in cultivation, processing, and the emigration of people from traditional henna using regions.