Marudhani - Traditional mehndi or henna designs for hands


Mehndi designs were originally and traditionally drawn with a paste of leaves of the mehndi plant ( called marudhani in Tamil ).  Simple patterns like circles were drawn on the palm by placing the paste of the palm and forming a circle.  When the paste dried a light reddish coloured circle is the result.  The paste was also applied on the tips of fingers forming caps to get the colour around the fingers when the paste dried.  Such simple designs were there for quite some time.

Later, only mehndi powder was available in the market.  We had to add water, \eucalyptus oil and make it into a nicely flowing paste.  Cones were prepared at home filled with this paste and use. After applying mehndi,  lemon juice and sugar juice was applied to ensure that it stuck to the palm for a long time. After a few hours, it was scrapped out and not washed with water. The next day a few cloves were placed on  a vessel heated on a stove.  The palms were exposed to the vapours from the cloves.  We were told that it enhanced the effect of the mehndi.


 Then came the use of hand made cones in which the paste was filled, but while the earlier types of paste mentioned first were solid, these cones had more easily flowing paste.

Mehndi designs are quite popular for the intricate patterns that are usually drawn on the palms and the arms.  Originally, mehndi or mehandi designs as they are called were drawn with the leaves of a plant called maruthani in Tamil (and henna in English).  The leaves are crushed and formed into a paste. The paste is then applied on the palm, fingers.  Due to the inherent property of the leaves a reddish colour is formed after a few hours.

Nowadays it is very difficult to get marudhani ( henna ) leaves in Chennai .  There are no plants in the neighbourhood too.  So I got it from Koyambedu market from my local vendor who forgot many times.  After reminding her several times,   finally I got the branches.  Some of the leaves had dried but I had no choice.

Remove the leaves from the branches.  Put them in a mixer jar and grind them into a fine paste.  It takes some time  to grind them because  leaves do not resist grinding !  In an intermediate stage add lemon juice by squeezing a slice of lemon. Lemon makes the design on the palm appear redder.  After grinding into a fine paste, remove the few leaves which refused to get ground (!) and apply on the tips of the fingers by covering the fingers and on the centre of the palm as a circle as shown in the step by step procedure in the images below.  After six hours, the marudhani dries leaving simple henna or mehndi designs on the palm.  This is the traditional method of applying mehndi followed in many parts of Southern India.

Traditional marudhani designs



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Applying marudhani patterns on the palm are an important part of celebration of Varalakshmi Vratham and Navratri apart from Diwali

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In this mehndi design category of posts the first design on a palm .  Where ever possible and necessary intermediate steps can also be added.  Usually the designs are self explanatory.  However in this first mehndi design the free patterns at the base of the palm are started.  Then the three floral petal patterns are added at the top surrounded by a double line border.  The three motifs are drawn on the top.  The designs on the fingers are drawn with the curved lines drawn first and expanded as shown.  The remaining gaps athe base of the palm are filled with the five floral patterns ( one below the base of each finger ) are added to complete a simple but beautiful mehndi design.  Quite easy. After completing the design a solution of sugar in lemon juice is applied using a cotton bud on the design so that mehndi sticks better.  Allow it to dry and scrape it ( do not use water ).
I have tried some mehndi designs using rangoli designs in Rangoli-sans-dots.  They are available in Rangolisansdots. There are some designs drawn with rangoli powder that can also be used for mehndi patterns are also there.
   The design starts from the base of the palm because it easier that way.  Start from the base of the palm, proceed towards the centre and finally add the patterns on the fingers.  If any gaps are there after completion they can be filled with small patterns as I have done at the base of the fingers.
Mehndi designs were originally and traditionally drawn with a paste of leaves of the mehndi plant ( called marudhani in Tamil ).  Simple patterns like circles were drawn on the palm by placing the paste of the palm and forming a circle.  When the paste dried a light reddish coloured circle is the result.  The paste was also applied on the tips of fingers forming caps to get the colour around the fingers when the paste dried.  Such simple designs were there for quite some time.  Then came the use of hand made cones in which the paste was filled, but while the earlier types of paste mentioned first were solid, these cones had more easily flowing paste.  Now, ready made mehndi cones are available using which beautiful and intricate patterns are drawn on the palm, fingers, on the back of the hand, above the arm and on the feet.  Mehndi designs are used in India on all occasions and specially for weddings, festivals like Karva Chauth, Diwali.  The following are some of the tips that may be of help in drawing mehndi designs with a mehndi cone.

1.  One needs some imagination and skills in free hand drawing.
2. The opening at the tip of the cone, made for mehndi paste to flow should be of optimum diameter -
     as small as possible
3. The cone should be held as close to the tip as possible so that the cone does not bend when drawing.
4. Start a design from the base of the palm and proceed towards the base of the fingers when drawing on the
     palm.  The same tip applies for drawing on the back of the hand.
5.  Semi-circular designs may be suitable when starting a design from the base of the palm.
     Floral patterns may be useful for starting a design from the centre of the palm.
6.  Floral rangoli borders can be used for designs on fingers.
7.  Rangoli and mehndi designs are primarily based on flowers, tendrils, petals, paisley, leaves all combined
     to get  a design according to our imagination. Like rangoli, some element of symmetry is also required.
8.   Combination of the motifs in point 7 along with other motifs and patterns that we can think of will result
      in infinite mehndi designs each different from the other like our finger prints !
9.  We can also try different patterns for each finger or one  pattern for the entire palm and fingers another   one for the entire back of the hand and back of the fingers.  The possibilities are endless.



Since there is some degree of similarity among rangoli art, mehndi design and fabric art I attempt to use one design in another.  Hence the mehndi design from a birds kolam design from Rangoli-sans-dots . A similar simple birds and fruits design around a central floral design has been adopted in the mehndi pattern.            
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Mehndi designs are also popular particularly during Diwali, I have tried the rangoli pattern below for a mehndi design on an OHP sheet.  Of course,  designs that are more intricate can be tried in the future. Mehndi pattern is also called henna tattoo in some countries.  This rangoli was drawn by me for a simple Diwali rangoli theme.

   One of my parallel line rangoli , drawn as a simple mehndi design with mehndi or henna cone on an OHP sheet.  Given the nature of free hand rangoli, mehndi designs and art like fabric art, mirror art it is many times easy to use one design on different medium.  That is what I am also trying.  Of course each method has its own advantages and disadvantages and hence constraints.   In this case it is very difficult (almost impossible ) to draw two parallel lines with mehndi cone so I have tried a single line design.    



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