Styles of Mehndi

Styles of Mehndi

The ancients of India knew a thing or two about body ornament. No dark and aggressive tattoos for them, thank you.

Traditional Indian enhancement is based on free and voluptuous swirl painted on hands and feet, and today trendies jump on the idea.

Gupta, who was trained in the refinements of this old beauty in India, is one doctor for 20 years. She has always had regular Indian clients, but recently the young and hip have started booking appointments for body paint.

On a recent morning in the lounge, a gaggle of young women were waiting their turn to be painted.

The painting medium is a henna paste that is squeezed onto the skin with an instrument that resembles a small pastry tube.

The dark squiggles and scrolls are left on the skin to the draft to fix, usually overnight. When the dried paste is flaked away, there is a pattern of red-colored skin tones that can range from orange to deep red.

The result looks like tattooing, but the experience is painless and pleasant and the effects of a temporary nature.

Danielle Finn Eman, a student at the Maryland Institute, was there for a floral garland motif accent at its navel - a special effect for a weekend at the ocean.

''I know that many people living tattoos, but I think they regret it 15 years from now. I think about the work world years ahead, and with tattoos just as much slack I could expect, even as an artist,''she says.

Henna painting is an herbal compound and there are no comments. Application can be as little minutes for a small Anklets pattern or up to hours for the complete works on palms and feet

Mehndi, as the 5000-year-old art of body painting is called, wins adherents from Hollywood to Parksville.

Demi Moore, Mira Sorvino, Naomi Campbell, the artist formerly known as Prince and his consort Mayte have appeared on star gala with henna-painted body parts.

At Usha Gupta's salon on Harford Road, the clientele is not as flashy, but enthusiastic.

''In India Mehndi is worn for celebrations and occasions such as weddings beneficial,''Gupta says,''but the young people do it for fun.''

Models may be original or from a book of old patterns. Young people seem to have an affinity for the old models, says Gupta, but they are dressed in untraditional ways. She has painted stomachs, backs, circlets around the neck, arm or any strap and even full scalp designs on shaved heads.

That is where the Western way of Mehndi is different from its origins. Today's fashionables after a visit to show off, the East is based on the ceremony and intimacy.

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