Navdha invited J and myself to join her and her family for her henna party at her family home. When we arrived some of Navdha's female relatives had already had their hands decorated with elaborate designs. As their guest, Nav and her family insisted that I should go next and no amount of protest would dissuade them that Navdha should go before me.
Two henna artists had been employed for the evening, and they were artists. Working from a catalogue of traditional designs stored in their heads, with swift confident hands they created intricate works of art on our hands.
I think that each design has some significance but the henna artists did not speak English and to be fair there was too much work to be done to spend time explaining things to me. Here is what I remember; obviously the main focus is the bride and groom and the palms of the hands are decorated with symbols to bring them long life, happiness and (I think) to bless them with children.
The symbols on the back of the hands are to protect and bring good fortune to me and to the bride’s brother (I hope I have remembered this correctly and that some one will correct me if I have not).
Look how intricate the designs are. I can't remember exactly how long this took but it was certainly less than an hour.
The whole evening had the feeling of a hen party, although there was no alcohol involved of course. There was music and singing and a lot of giggling. Every one was keen to admire the artwork on each other’s hands.
Our visit to India coincided with an auspicious time for weddings and during our stay we met several brides. From my experiences I recognised their henna'd hands, their bangles and the red dye in their hair parting. Particularly, in the rural areas while I was keen to examine the rustic henna designs on their hands, they excitedly took my hands in theirs and turned them back and forth while exclaiming in words I could not understand but with admiration that needed no translation (not of my hands you understand but the exquisite art work that they temporarily displayed).