The Mehendi artists of Gariahat
Mehendi, one of the most important adornments on a brides’ big day- from the spirals of the fingertips to the petite palms, from the delicate feet all the way up to the knees of the bedecked bride, spreading across various motifs, styles and designs, Mehendi has travelled a long way, from being a traditional exquisite to becoming a global trend.
This Indian version of temporary henna tattoo or skin decoration done in intricate patterns, typically for any festival or occasion, has been a fashion statement in India for some time now but with Hollywood actors and celebrities making this art famous, it has gained popularity by becoming a trendy, painless alternative to tattoos.
Such is the importance of Mehendi in the Indian culture, that it is considered sacred and lucky, apart from adding that x-factor to the bride’s glamorous D-day look. So, Indian marriages have an entire ceremony for it with Bollywood songs also based on the Mehendi day.
When the entire world is bedazzled by this art, how can Kolkata not contribute?
We, in Kolkata have been accustomed to seeing Mehendi artists in malls and shopping centers but this practice of applying Mehendi in such places had started long back in Gariahat – a place for shopping, chess, and Adda is also the workspace for about 30 Mehendi artists who sit with Mehendi cones, Mehendi design books and a couple of small tools in front of them.
More often than not, you will find them crafting their skill onto a young maiden’s hands for a nominal charge.
Team Beacon had a chat with few of these skilled artists and this is what we found out…
Their specializations: From conventional to contemporary chic styles, exotic to lavish ones, these Mehendi artists have the right trick up their sleeves. They can apply various styles such as Rajasthani, Arabian, Indo-Arabian, Mughal, Hyderabadi, Zardosi, Bombay contemporary style, Marwari, Peacock Designs, Shehnai, Paisleys, etc.
The magical potions added to the Mehendi: They use herbal ingredients, leaves of plants; coffee and tea, lemon and cloves too, with oil and sugar for the strong and long effects.
Cost: minimum Rs. 100 onwards for regular applications and Rs.1500 onwards for bridal Mehendi. “I even charge as less as Rs.15-20 from college students.” – said Sonu Gupta, a Mehendi artist.
No.of customers per day: No fixed numbers. Sometimes we get up to 7-10 customers a day and sometimes only 1-2 or none.
Timings: Every day from 11 a.m – 8 p.m. It even stretches to 9 pm sometimes.
Time Taken to apply: 15 mins maximum. Of course, bridal Mehendi takes a longer time. Approx 1-3 hours depending on the style of Mehendi applied.
How many years they are into this profession: Some are into this profession since 18yrs, 15yrs, 7yrs and some as new as a week.
How did they learn this skill: Some of them had done a course on Mehendi applications and some have learned by looking at other Mehendi artists and practicing for some time before setting up their own stall.
How has the business changed over the years: Earlier there were little shops and more customers now there are more shops and fewer customers per day.