The art of henna (called mehndi in Hindi & Urdu) has been practiced for over 5000 years in Pakistan, India, Africa and the Middle East. For centuries, henna has been used to cool down their bodies, especially people of the dessert, because it has natural cooling properties. They feel its cooling sensation throughout the body for as long as the henna stain remains on their skin. Initially, as the stain faded away, it left patterns on the skin surface which led to ideas to make designs for decorative purposes. In the ancient Egyptian times mummies wore henna designs and it is documented that Cleopatra herself used henna for decorative purposes.
Henna is used for many reasons including: self-expression; celebration of special occasions like weddings, holidays & birthdays; inspiration; reminders; beauty; cosmetic treatments; medicinal uses; blessings & well-being; to be part of an ancient tradition; and an alternative or precursor to a tattoo.
Today in weddings, brides prefer to have their henna done prior to the mehndi night so that they can enjoy the festivities and also have a deeper stain by the wedding day.
Tradition holds that for as long as the henna stain appears on the bride, she doesn't have to do any housework! Also, the darker the stain the better the marriage and the better the mother-in-law will be!