Mehandi in the Marketplace Tradition, Training, and Innovation in the Henna Artistry of Contemporary Jaipur, India

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Jessica Evans Jain


Henna has been an essential part of women’s traditional body art in many North Indian communities. In recent decades, professional henna artists have expanded their businesses to offer “walk-in” service along the sidewalks of urban market areas in addition to private at-home bookings. This study examines the skills acquisition and execution of Jaipur market henna artists in order to understand how they satisfy a large customer base that demands convenience, application speed, motif variety, and overall design excellence. In addition to conducting interviews with artists and customers, the author received training from and worked alongside a closed sample of artists. Collected market designs were compared to surveyed design booklets and magazines in order to identify elements of continuity and change in designs since 1948. The data revealed that customer demands require artist training that promotes constant innovation that in turn increases popular appeal and vitalizes the tradition of henna application.


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