In Pakistan mehndi is known more commonly as Henna. This is a plant whose leaves leave an impression on the skin – particularly palms and feet – of women very much like a tattoo. However, while the tattoo is permanent, Henna effects lasts about three to four weeks at best. The color varies from dark red to deep brown depending upon how long the henna is kept on the skin. Sometimes, addition of oil and lemon make the color darker and last longer.
There are very intricate designs that are painted on the hands and feet of women in Pakistan with Henna. This tattooing is a way to beautify the woman for a special occasion which is mostly her wedding. There is a special phase in the wedding ceremony, called the Mehndi which spreads over two full days. One day is when the groom applies Henna to his hands and feet – though this more symbolical than beautifying; and the second day at bride’s house when it is applied not only to her but all her friends as well.
The bride gets her hands and feet done with intricate designs – hands are usually drawn upon until the elbow and feet up to the calf muscles. This is a fun time for all the young unmarried girl friends of the bride.
Women in Pakistan are generally very conservative as beautifying themselves may classify them as vain and attract negative attention and even castigation from the religious heads and male family members.