Hana-Bandan - Iranian Henna Bridal Party

These henna designs were applied by Suhayr, a wonderful friend of my eldest daughter.
 
Recently, I had the great pleasure of helping my dear friend throw a hana bandan/bridal shower party for her beautiful daughter, Parisa. It was a fabulous evening of music, dancing and delicious food.  Hana bandan/hana bandoon is an old Iranian pre-wedding ritual dating back to several hundred years ago. The henna ceremony is usually held by the bride's family the day before the wedding and henna paste is applied on the bride's hands and sometimes the groom's hands and feet as the family gets ready to send their daughter off to start a new chapter in her life. This tradition may vary from region to region and from household to household. It's believed that applying henna brings good luck and happiness to the newlyweds.

The subject of hana bandan seems somewhat obscure in our culture and there's little information available about it. After some research and inquiry, a good friend of mine gave me a copy of the hana-bandan page from Mahmud Katiraie's book, "Khest ta Khesht," which is written in Persian and is about Iranian culture, traditions and folklore. According to the author, the day before the wedding the groom's family sends over the khoncheh (large wooden tray) of henna to the bride's home. Khoncheh would carry the seven brass or silver bowls of freshly prepared henna adorned with silver and gold coins surrounded by different colored lit candles. The henna designs would include the images of a sparrow, tree or a flower. Iranian henna designs are simple and not very elaborate and intricate.

 Boy Holding a Falcon, Iran, Late 18th century, Qajar Dynasty, Hermitage Museum
 
'The Shirin Painter,' A girl acrobat balancing on a knife, c. 1840 (Source)
Probably by Mahammad Hasan, period of Fath 'Ali Shah, A mother and child with parrot (Source)
 
For those who are interested in the subject matter, there's an informative article on the online encyclopedia Iranica about Henna. There's also an interesting article, The Patterns of Persian Henna by Catherine Cartwright-Jones, that examines the art of Persian henna from the late 13th century to the mid 19th century and asks for further research. The paper offers several references to henna by the great classical Persian poets such as Roudaki, Jami and Sa'di along with several paintings depicting hennaed hands. Based on the author's research the art of Persian henna precedes the Hindu intricate henna designs by several hundred years. With the spread of European cultural influences and urbanization, hanna bandan ceremonies became unpopular and demode, a thing of the past. Today in modern Iran, many of the young Iranian women find the use of henna distasteful and old-fashioned.

Nighttime in a Palace, Iran, 16th century , Harvard University Art Museum 

I had never attended a henna ceremony in the past. However, my experience with henna goes back to my childhood growing up in the south of Iran. Every summer, my mother who was a huge fan of henna would apply henna throughout my hair and would leave it for several hours before washing it during those hot summer days. She believed using henna would nourish the hair and the scalp and work as a natural hair conditioner. On the day that I was packing to leave for America she tucked some henna into a canvas bag and placed it in my suitcase filled with the things that I thought I wouldn't be able to find here.


13 comments:

  1. These traditions are so beautiful. I'm glad we keep them alive.

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  2. I think Hanabandan is only specific to southern parts of Iran maybe because of their close geographical proximity to the gulf ( Arabic) Countries. I have not seen this tradition in north, northwest, northeast and central states in Iran.

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    1. That is interesting. I lived in several regions in Iran before moving to the U.S. Everywhere I went, henna party was celebrated the night before the wedding. However, like many other traditions, the so called "modern" generation looked down on this tradition and though of it to belong to the village/country living and the ages past. So that is one reason some "modern" families skipped the celebration to not be less thought of by their peers. Another reason henna party is skipped is the economic reasons. It is an additional cost for the groom and bride's family to host guests and provide food, refreshments, music, an additional set of party dress/suit for the bride and groom, and a venue to hold the party. In the old days, anyone who attended a henna party would bring presents for the bride but not so much so these days. Only the close family members give presents. Some brides also skip the henna party so they wouldn't be tired the next day for the actual wedding and photo shoots, since henna parties tend to last past midnight. I always enjoy the henna parties more than the wedding itself for it is more fun and less formal.

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    2. actually I lived in north of Iran and they do celebrate the hana bandan . In Gilan which is one of the provinces in north of Iran.

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  3. I am from North Of Iran and we have Hanabandon.

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  4. I am so glad to learn about this! Henna was big in Lebanon growing up but I only knew of it as a hair mask or coloring agent. I thought the henna on the hands was from India only. You come from such a rich and fascinating culture, I hope to visit Iran in the next few months.

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  5. This was such an interesting post. I didn't really know much about henna before; only that it was pretty. hehe

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  6. This is a very beautiful post. I actually just got a henna designs applied to myself from a culture fair I attended. I think its an awesome tradition.

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  7. Is there an English translation of Khest ta Khesht?

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    1. Holly, I don't think that there is an English translation of the book.

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  8. Do you know if this kind of worked in Jewish persian ceremonies as well? Just wondering for a persian friend. Also, any other traditional pre-wedding stuff? Thanks - KC

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    1. KC, As far as I know the henna ceremony is a cultural pre-wedding celebration and most likely Iranian Jews also follow the same ritual.

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