Matt D
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Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 11:28 am

Perhaps someone well versed in the Hindu culture can answer this for me.

The tobacco shop by my house where I buy my Marlboros is a family run business. Their appearance clearly indicates that they are devoted Hindu believers.

One of the people there is, I guess, the daughter. She usually rings up the sales.

If I were to guess, she's somewhere in the 14-16 year old age brackett.

I could not help but notice the last couple of times I went in there that her hands were painted in some "pattern". It was a dark brown paint, and it covered most of her hand and wrist. I cannot decribe the pattern without a picture.

I'm curious as to what it means, but I'm afraid to ask them for:
1. I don't want to offend them.
2. I don't want to seem "prying" into her/their personal lives.
3. Their English skills aren't exactly University level, and I'm afraid that they would have a hard time explaining it in a way that I can understand.

So why would a teenage Indian girl decorate her hands/wrists in elaborate, (to the untrained eye) seemingly random patterns?
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RE: Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 11:45 am

Why don't you just ask her? Why should she be offended? They're living in a Western culture by choice....with all the benefits they get, the odd cultural question should be welcome. It shows you have an interest in the Hindu culture.

If I chose to move to India and maintained my Western ways, I would expect a myriad of questions.
I dumped at the gybe mark in strong winds when I looked up at a Porter Q400 on finals. Can't stop spotting.
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RE: Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 12:00 pm

Unfortunately I don't have an answer but if you choose to take Yyz717's route and ask them what it is, be very gentle and add a compliment like that's interesting or nice or something. Foreigners, especially in this day and age, are very sensitive to comments that might relate to their religion and even though your intentions might be harmless, they might interpret it as something different (my parents are foreigners and I've often found that someone might say something subconsciously which deeply offends them). So if you do ask them, keep those things in mind.

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RE: Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 12:10 pm

Matt D. This is common is many Asian cultures. It is just a showing of just to show it. They even did it at a church carnival. It is just meant to look pretty.
david b.
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RE: Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 12:27 pm

To attract sexy guys like you  Big thumbs up
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RE: Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 12:55 pm

As a Hindu myself, I could say a bit about that. There's really no specific religious significance in it. The coloring is done using a turmeric mixture (called mehendi in Hindi I believe). Traditionally, a woman's hands are decorated with intricate patterns in mehendi at the time of her marriage, but lots of girls get it done on their hands during festivals like Deepavali/Diwali (which was in late November). The patterns are not easy to wash off and last for quite a while. There's no harm in asking her about it, like the others said  Smile
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RE: Hindu Question

Tue Dec 25, 2001 1:43 pm

Oh. I'm pretty sure I know what it is. It's called henna. Henna’s practical use started as a result of the need to lower body temperature in the desert. The henna plant, whose botanical name is Lawsonia inermis has several medicinal properties, one of which is its ability to cool down the body. Upon learning of this effect, the ancient desert people would dip their hands and feet in a mud made from crushed henna leaves. When they scraped off the dried mud they noticed that as long as the colour on their hands and feet remained visible, their body temperatures stayed low.

Besides its practical purposes, tradition in these countries have it that henna is also sometimes used as a lucky charm. It is believed to be able to ward off all kinds of harmful ghosts, black magic, and so on. It is this property of henna that gave birth to an ancient Arab proverb, “If I don’t speak the truth, I won’t present my hand for henna.”

Henna may be used for different purposes depending on the region it is in. For example, in North Africa, an un-named newborn baby about to be named, a young child at the age of seven who can now join in the fasting month, will have their hands dipped in henna. The red palms stained with henna represent his or her entrance into a more important stage of life.

In India, henna painting is an important part of the wedding ritual. It is believed that the deeper the colour on the skin, the longer the love between the married couple will last. In the first month of the marriage, the bride is also not supposed to do any kind of housework. She is supposed to use this time to get to know her in-laws better, and hopefully the henna on her hand would last an entire month, which is considered a very good omen.

Hope that helped. I did a show on henna painting in school a few years back, which is why I got this information.
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RE: Hindu Question

Wed Dec 26, 2001 8:03 am

The Indian word for it is "mehndi", and it is not necessarily a Hindu thing as much as an Indian cultural thing in general.

Although it is worn during holidays, its most common and well-known use is during engagement/wedding celebrations.

More recently, it has become quite popular amongst non-Indians in the west who want tattoo designs but do not want the permanency of them.
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RE: Hindu Question

Wed Dec 26, 2001 5:40 pm

People from Eastern cultures ( especially Indians and the Arabs ) use this substance ( henna in Arabic, English and Urdu ), mehndi in Hindi to decorate their hands and feet and their hair.It does not have any religious significance, but it is meant to enhance beauty.

I myself must confess I dont like henna - it's smell is awful and it looks and feels like mud.Then again the patterns on women's hand can look very nice, if only from the aesthetic point of view.
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RE: Hindu Question

Wed Dec 26, 2001 9:55 pm

Its Mehndi/Henna and its not Hindu, the designs are also part of tradition and culture in the Middle East and other Asian countries Smile
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Matt D
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RE: Hindu Question

Wed Dec 26, 2001 10:40 pm

Thank you all for the input. Next time I go there, I'll just tell her it looks nice or something.
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RE: Hindu Question

Wed Dec 26, 2001 11:03 pm

....and not only is it an indian/pakistani/arab thing any more.

More and more people in the West are getting "easy-to-get-rid-of" tatoos made by Henna. I think Madonna was a major trendsetter in that field, too....with her 1998 album.



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