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  • Photograph of a young woman's hands and feet decorated with mehndi. She also wears bracelets and anklets.
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Young woman's hands and feet with mehndi decoration
© Colin Anderson/Blend Images/CORBIS

India

Mehndi: Dyeing for Love

The first gift a groom gives to his bride is the mehndi or henna that she will use to decorate her hands and feet for the wedding. The mehndi is often accompanied with gifts of jewellery, such as toe rings and ankle bracelets made of beautifully worked precious metals and jewels.

The mehndi patterns used on the bride’s hands and feet are symbolic of marital happiness and fertility. In some communities, the groom’s name is cleverly hidden among the graceful designs and his first task as a new husband is to locate it. The intimacy of this play helps to ease any awkwardness between the bride and groom who may have only recently met.