Is Bengali Alta Replacing Mehndi?


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Alta Replacing Mehndi

Alta is basically a bright red dye or a liquid color, that is being used to adorn on the palms and the feet in a very simple pattern. With Alta it is painting the soles with the red liquid dye and then adorning its upper foot with an elaborate design, which helps in bringing out the beauty of your feet. It is also very common in Indian traditions,particularly during the religious festivals as well as the weddings. Seems like Alta replacing mehndi all over again.

A common ritual is being followed by the womenfolk of West Bengal. In Bengal, Alta is also known as Mahavar, which basically means dark pink in color. In fact, a Bengali bride is considered incomplete if her hands, as well as her feet, are not adorned with Alta.

The application of Alta not only enhance the beauty of your feet, but can also provide a cooling effect on your body. So is Alta replacing mehndi?

Is Alta Replacing Mehndi



The discovery tale of Alta is still unexplored, yet it do have some evidence into the Hindu Upanishads on how it became a very important element of Hindu Tradition. It has always been found as one of the most amazing Make-Up stages of ‘Solah Shringar’. It can also be tracedback in the mythological depiction of Lord Krishna, as he has been seen applying the Alta on to his beloved Radha’s feet.

Another notable fact on the significance of Alta is that it resembles blood, which is also symbolic of the fertility and the prosperity. However, after the Islamic invasion in India, it brought along with its the new customs and traditions called henna or mehndi. It is because of the increasing Muslim influence in the culture, the usage of Alta was being slowly replaced by Henna. Is now Alta replacing mehndi?

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2Making of Alta

Making of Alta

Image Source: Sparklewithsurabhi
Traditionally, Alta was being made from the betel leaves. Later on, it was replaced with other artificial products like Kumkum (Red Powder) or vermillion (Sindoor) to create a similar liquid. Nowadays, the available Alta is basically made out of lac and other chemical or even colors.

3Rituals of Alta & its influence

Rituals of Alta & its influence

Alta is much more prevalent in Bengal, where a woman devotes much attention on adorning her feet with Alta as much as she do to adorn her hair as well as the face. Wearing an Alta during Durga Puja is a very common ritual among Bengali women.

Whereas in some parts of India, it is not only being used as an adornment for their feet, but also is used to perform a very important post-wedding ceremony, when the bride enters her in-laws home for the first time. Before she enters the new house or the house of her in-laws, the newly-wedded bride first steps into this red dye and then walks inside the home, leaving her trail of footsteps. This trail is the indication of Goddess Lakshmi in the form of a bride and has now been entered the home.

This red dye is a very important part of Oriya wedding ceremonies too. As the color red stands for purity as well as prosperity among them. Alta replacing mehndi, thorough cultures?

According to some Hindu Mythology, the images, as well as the sculptures of the Goddesses, particularly of Durga as well as Lakshmi, are painted in Alta. The same is also for depictions of Krishna and Radha.

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4Style & Attire

Style & Attire

Alta is also considered as an inherent adornment for all the Indian classical dance forms such as Kuchipudi, Bharatnatyam, Odissi, Mohiniyattam, Kathak, and Manipuri. It has also been retained as a very important necessary part of a dancer’s make-up routine. It is also one of the most striking parts of an Odissi dancer overall look as her hands as well as her feet are very intricately adorned with the bright red liquid color. When the red hands are made for the mudras (gestures), they look splendid and dramatic. In fact, all the Indian dance forms also depict stories of various types of gods and goddesses. Alta replacing mehndi in many ways.

5Wearing Alta

Wearing Alta

Alta is a very easy adornment to apply on hands and feet, although designing the intricate patterns with Alta is quite impossible. Alta basically can employ simple painting techniques with a brush which can also be accomplished by any person and does not require any kind of artistic skills. The advantage of Alta is that it can dry out quickly unlike Mehndi, which take a long time.

It can also be a creative alternative in comparison with Mehndi. As if you see, mehndi can be done only once, and stay long for like a week. But, with Alta you can just wash it off in one day and put on a new design for another day and adorn your hands and feet every day with new and amazing designs.

So, is Alta creating a new trend among youths for its amazing color as well as new intricate designing?

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