Mehndi has been catching the eye of the West-and it doesn't look like the fascination will fade anytime soon. The Eastern art of placing temporary henna imprints, mehndi is often described as a "temporary and painless tattoos" on the body. With everyone racing to henna tattoes, mehndi is turning into a symbol of hip style for all kinds of people, regardless of their age, gender, race, or wealth.
Tattoo parlors now augment their income by including mehndi in their offerings of body-art. Oriental art, jewelry, and clothing stores have begun to incorporate mehndi services in the back of their shops. Independent mehndi parlors are also opening.
Today Americans eat lo mein and watch Japanese films dubbed in English while wearing Batik dresses from Indonesia. On the other side of the globe, the Chinese have barbecues, watch American films, and wear clothes from The Gap. A global fusion is occurring, and mehndi is a part of it.
Mehndi was first brought to India by invaders from the Middle East in the 12th century. Indians then adapted the Arabian style of large floral patterns into intricate paisley patterns.
Historically mehndi has been an important part of the Hindu marriage rituals. During this time Indian women gather together to disclose the mysteries of married life to the bride-to-be. Because the new bride will be treated as a lady of leisure until her mehndi fades, elaborate designs and dark red stains are desirable.
Mehndi is also applied in the tropics because it has a cooling, therapeutic effect. When applied to the nerve centers of the palms and feet, mehndi has a effect on the nervous system, and most importantly, soothes the psyche.
Critics of the Western media say that whenever media absorbs anything authentic, the media will belittle the authenticity. The mass-media cannot grasp all the dynamics behind something that is highly personal and spiritual and thus embraces mehndi in a partial manner and portrays an incomplete picture. In this sense, all commercial fads with a religious origin are trivialized when presented without a context or recognition of their cultural meanings.
But some say the commercialization of mehndi represents the shrinking distance between the East and West and is therefore very valuable. Thus American teenagers who apply mehndi on their bodies harmoniously complement Indian teenagers who groove to the classical jazz of Miles Davis. This instinctive human drive to seek things different from one's own culture has been able to manifest itself through technology. As technology has provided the means to travel, people are learning things they never knew before.
The Yin-Yang notion of duality is, "For every good, there exists an evil." Fashion trends like mehndi augment global fusion, but on the path to achieving this fusion, often become trivialized.
The ultimate question is: Is this global fusion worth the trivialization of age-old cultural traditions? Whether you are from the East or the West will affect your opinion on this issue greatly. The answer depends on how you feel about two things: globalization and tradition. There is no clean and simple answer here. It remains a subjective affair.