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Henna tattoos popularize Hindu tradition at Baylor U. fund-raiser
[March 03, 2006]

Henna tattoos popularize Hindu tradition at Baylor U. fund-raiser

(Comtex Community Via Thomson Dialog NewsEdge)WACO, Texas, Mar 03, 2006 (The Lariat, U-WIRE via COMTEX) --The ancient art of henna, or mendhi in Hindi, has inked its way into fashion trends nationwide, and now Indian Subcontinent Student Association artists are making their mark on Baylor University in an effort to raise funds for an upcoming culture show.

Tattoos ranging in price from $3 to $8 are available from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. on March 3 and the following week in the Bill Daniel Student Center.

Houston, Texas, sophomore Deepna Thakkar described henna as an artistic tradition that's part of cultures in India, Pakistan, Bangladesh and other countries in the Indian subcontinent.

Thakkar is a member of ISSA and a henna tattoo artist. She said she's been practicing the art since childhood, as it's a tradition practiced in her family.

Thousands of years ago, she said, the tattoos were applied to Indian brides before their weddings as a way to celebrate the marriage. The ink was applied to their hands and feet to symbolize their status as a bride-to-be. Back then if the tattoos were worn as an everyday fashion, Thakkar said it would have been understood by others that you were married.

"Today henna tattoos are used as a form of fashion and expression among many different types of people, not just those with Indian heritage," Thakkar said.

The tattoos are popular among young people as an alternative to permanent inking, Thakkar said, because the tattoos only last for one to two weeks.

Sugar Land, Texas, freshman Mishna Joy is also an ISSA member dedicating her time to the weeklong fund-raising event. She learned the art of henna for a competition at her high school in Delhi, India.

The ink used in short-term tattooing is made from ground henna leaves mixed with various herbs and juices, Joy said. It's then applied to the skin with a cone-shaped bag and left to dry. A lemon juice and sugar treatment is applied to prolong and deepen the color.

When used for a wedding, Joy said some people believe the darker the tattoo turns out, the stronger the marriage will be.

The ISSA artists offer a book of designs with examples of different sizes and styles of tattoos.

"The tattoos don't normally have a meaning behind the design," Thakkar said. "Some people write Arabic phrases or their name or initials."

In modern practice, henna artists use more simplistic designs and use an array of colors, rather than highly intricate patterns and traditional black ink, she said. Designs are now even decorated with glitter and other adornments, she said.

Dan Imken, an Austin, Texas, freshman, said he chose a henna tattoo depicting a chain of snails because he liked the fun pattern.

"I got a [henna] tattoo last semester and I liked how it turned out," Imken said.

Thakkar encouraged students to expand their knowledge about different cultures on campus.

"Spring break is coming up," she said. "It's the perfect time to learn something about another culture and show off a new tattoo."

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