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How henna became a part of festivals

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Henna, also known as mehndi, is a plant-based dye used for centuries in the Middle East, North Africa, and South Asia for cosmetic and medicinal purposes. Henna is especially popular during Muslim festivals, such as Eid al-Fitr and Eid al-Adha, Muslim weddings, and childbirth.

Desert people who had to live in the scorching heat between the sun and the sand and had no access to water to cool their bodies applied henna to their skin. They somehow learned that there is a certain species of tree whose leaves can be utilised as a cooling agent. The Egyptian privet or henna tree finally evolved into a tool to protect themselves from the sweltering desert heat.

The history of henna and Islam dates back to the time of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH), who reportedly used henna to dye his hair and beard. Legend has it that the Prophet (PBUH) loved henna so much that he often held it close to his face and smelled its fragrance.

As a form of Sunnah, Muslims worldwide still continue this practice to show love and respect to the Prophet. Besides its dying properties, henna makes hair thick and prevents hair loss and dandruff. The use of henna then spread throughout the Islamic world and became associated with various Islamic customs and practices.

One of the most significant ways henna is used during Muslim festivals is through intricate henna designs, also known as mehndi. These designs are typically applied to the hands and feet of women, with different types of creative designs by henna artists. The designs may vary from country to country for their tradition, culture, and acceptance of art.

Although it is the same paste of the same plant, henna at different body parts can signify different meanings and symbols. The henna on the palms of the hands resembles blessings, the henna on top of the hands shows strength and protection, and on the feet means it is grounding us with mother earth.

Henna is commonly used during Muslim weddings. It is believed in some cultures that the darker the henna gets on the bride's hands, the longer the marriage will last. It is also applied to the hands and feet of the bride and groom as a symbol of good luck and fertility.

In many Islamic communities, henna is believed to have protective properties. For example, henna is sometimes applied to a newborn baby's hands and feet to protect them from the 'evil eye' and other negative energies.

In addition to its aesthetic properties, mehndi or henna has some scientific benefits. It has been shown to have anti-inflammatory properties, which can help to reduce swelling and inflammation in the body. This makes it useful in treating rheumatoid arthritis and other inflammatory conditions.

Additionally, it has natural antimicrobial properties, which makes it useful in treating skin infections and other bacterial or fungal conditions. It is effective against many different strains of bacteria and fungi, making it a versatile treatment option.

Henna has become an inevitable part of Muslim festivals and celebrations. Its beautiful patterns and designs resemble happiness and prosperity. The joy of the artist and the recipients makes the eves of different festivals a lot more festive.

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