32 New Things: Get Mehndi

getting a mehndi in india


Every year I make a list of new things I want to try.  Some of them are hard, some are easy, some are shockingly mundane.  You can read about other new things I’ve tried here.  This is the story of when I got mehndi while I was traveling through India.

What Getting a Mehndi is like in India

Not surprisingly, when I decided that I wanted to get mehndi, I wanted to get The Best Mehndi Ever.  I’m not sure that there’s a way to measure the inherent awesomeness of one’s mehndi, but I was  sure that I wanted to win at mehndi. So I obviously chose to get it from a random sidewalk vendor in Bangalore.I spent six weeks in India last year, teaching at a school for special needs kids.  After I’d finish my teaching gig, I’d wander around the Jayanagar neighborhood, buying juice and dodging cows.  On one of these afternoons, I happened past two guys sitting on tiny plastic stools, flashing around a binder full of photos showcasing mehndied limbs.  Well, this is obviously the best place to do it, I thought.  On this Tuesday afternoon, on a plastic stool, on the sidewalk.After I bargained them down from the tourist price and selected my pattern (peacocks, thankyouverymuch). I hunkered down to let them mehndi away.  They pulled out what looked like tiny icing piping tubes and started to squeeze the cold, brown paste onto my forearms.

getting a mehndi while in india

 

A crowd started to gather at the spectacle of a white girl off the tourist beat, squatting in the street. “We’re just very curious” said a little old lady, patting my shoulder reassuringly.  After about twenty minutes of extremely detailed piping and crowd commentary, I was finished.  There was wet brown paste from my fingertips to my elbows. Fantastic!  And where should I wash it off? No, friend.  There will be no washing off.  I hadn’t realized that when you get mehndi, you need to let the paste set for several hours.  There will be no rubbing, no changing of clothes, no fishing in your bag for money.

 

the mehndi i got in india

What followed was this:
  1. Having the street vendor guys fish through my bag for the money
  2. Walking eight blocks back to my hostel with my arms held in front of me like I was holding an imaginary tray
  3. Being licked by a street cow as I stood on the corner with my arms in front of me, ineffectively yelping and trying to kick it as gently as possible
  4. Laying on my bed watching Bollywood movies for three hours while my arms dried

But you know what?  All that ridiculousness was totally worth it!  The result was 100% amazing.  I spent the next week gesticulating flashily and waving way more than necessary.

Have you ever gotten mehndi? Or any other unusual beauty treatments while you’ve been traveling?

Pssst!  If you’ve got the travel bug and want to know how to quit your job and travel on the cheap, may I recommend my ebooks?  Cheap as chips!  Super useful!

30 Comments

Adriana and Kylie

Ooh! So stunning! I've never had mendhi, but I'm having it for a friend's wedding this fall. I'm already excited (and now even more so, seeing how pretty yours was).

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*starr fish

Yay for mehndi and yay that you actually called it by its proper name! Yours turned out so beautiful and dark! My sister in law's family is from India (she actually grew up in So. Cal.) so for her wedding to my brother – LOTS of mehndi! We usually do it ourselves whenever we're all together, which is about once a year now. I love it and it makes me feel so special!

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K A

I'm half Indian so I've gotten mehndi done numerous times. The longer you keep it on the darker it will be. There was one time (during my cousin's wedding) that my cousins and I all slept with plastic bags over our hands so that we could get it as dark as possible, lol.

And as starr fish said, it's nice to see someone actually call it mehndi instead of just calling it henna.

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Jenny

I love mehndi like I love glitter and sugary foods. I got to go to India with some friends who had a cousin getting married. Aunties giving mehndi cross-legged on the floor. So amazing! Mine wasn't the intricate and precise art you can get from the pros on the street, but I totally won with that experience. 🙂
I was still jet-lagged though, so I took a nap before it had chipped off, leaving an imprint on my cheek and forehead for a week.

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Samantha

So beautiful. I've done mehndi and got it done several times, but the most memorable was at a party in India that students of the college at Chennai threw for the group of students I was traveling with. It was very small, but beautiful none the less.

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iris

I've done this myself a few times, after having it done once in high school. You need some henna powder, eucalyptus oil, instant coffee, and lemon juice. Well, that's my preferred concoction, anyways.

It stays longest on the palms of your hands and bottoms of your feet. Like, weeks.

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Anne (no longer in Reno)

Gorgeous! I want more pictures!

So what is the difference between henna and mehndi? Is mehndi the art form and henna is what you use to do it? I only ask because I used to dye my hair with henna (aah, the 90's).

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LynnieBee

I only got Mehndi once, at the Renaissance Festival in Sterling, NY, but I absolutely loved it and it was worth every penny 🙂

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Kate

It looks amazing! What a fun experience!

We always do extremely amateur henna for Diwali at kindy, it's so much fun, but we're talking cartoon flowers and smiley faces here!

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lulu

i actually got it done by my auntie's roomie in her art studio. i had it done on my shoulder and around my hips. unfortunately i had to tape something around my midsection because i couldn't walk around with it out in public while it dried. no worries there, until the next day when i was instructed to remove the "bandage" and the surprisingly agonizing pain of having skin and tummy fuzz ripped out by the tape. good lord. i almost passed out. the end result though, as you know, was so gorgeous i walked around scantily clad in my house for weeks showing it off. i had never felt so beautiful before. regardless, my roommates were thrilled.

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Little redhead

That looks great! Very impressive. One of my school teachers was able to do it a little bit, and she gave all us girls a little mehndi at a schooltrip. Naturally, being 14 years, we all wanted boy crushes names surrounded by flowers and butterflies, Yay! :p

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Glamourlegen

After getting Mehndi done on my foot (twice) and my hand (once; so, so, so pretty!) in India this winter (yes, I skipped winter altogether and stayed in the wonderful East for three months) I actually got a tattoo on my foot and ankle. Not a Mehndi pattern; had it done in Thailand but it´s still special to me. Am seriously considering getting something done permanently in a trad patternd, though not on my hand as I´m a doc working in internal (not to mention I´m 31 and I still care that my dad freaked out over the foot and refuses to see it).

Love your to-do-list! Great initiative 🙂

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Helen

I live in a town in the UK with a very large Pakistani and Bangladeshi community so every summer fair, school fundraising event, community thingy there will be someone doing mehndi, I love having it done
I first had it done in India while volunteering at a women's refuge, some very talented women doodled on me

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JennAventures

I got it done at an Indian friend's wedding last year, as the lone caucasion girl in attendance I too drew a crowd. It stayed on me for weeks!

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penn

I've had small pieces but nothing extensive. Getting a large piece done is on my life list. Love it! I would love to do something like that for my upcoming wedding, but I think it would be weird to appropriate someone else's cultural custom. So I'll save the mehndi for post wedding but definitely look forward to having some done.

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NoviceWorldTraveler

It is an amazing design and your entry made me laugh – of course you'd be gesticulating flashily and waving way more than necessary!

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Dee

ooh I would love to get a Mendhi one day! Once I got a Henna tattoo at the beach but it seems like they had added some other chemical to the paste, a chemical that gave me a rash around the area that had henna on it. It was on my shoulder so it wasn't noticeable, but I was definitely allergic to something.
I'm going to start my "Summer List" for things to do. The place where I got an internship is in a tourist location called Granville Island. So far, I have: Feed the ducks on my lunch break, and go to the psychic in front of the market. I'm sure I will add more eventually!

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XXX

so awesome. i'm always fascinated by body art and now inspired to start my own list. thanks!

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Ally

Wow! It is incredibly dangerous to get Mehndi/henna art from a random street vendor without asking them what type of paste they use!! I'm glad it didn't turn into a rash or anything. My mom has been doing Mehndi for years so she has heard of the horror stories of people getting Mehndi from street vendors while on vacation and then getting horrible burns, rashes, allergic reactions and scars. You have to make sure that they use brown henna and not black henna. Black henna uses a chemical that will burn your skin. My mom has a sign that states exactly what she uses in her paste – brown henna and a little bit of lemon juice. Anyways, your Mehndi looks amazing! My mom refuses to do any designs other than little dogs, cats and flowers. I actually still have a butterfly on my arm that my mom gave me three weeks ago.

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Anonymous

I love cider But I don't drink it anymore , I love ham to and I gave up eating that too , where did it say in the Bible that it is ok to eat apples after the first one was eaten

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