Vol. 130, No. 7 | September 2015 Cosmetics & Toiletries® | 31
modernity, as consumers have been using it safely
for years. While kajal was initially an unbranded segment, now several companies with large distribution
networks have entered the segment, helping consumers to upgrade to branded kajal.
Alta and Mehndi
Alta: In the north and northeastern parts of
India, alta is a product generally used to decorate
the feet and palms. Traditionally, women used twigs,
berries, bark or flowers as alta. In modern
times, these have been replaced by various
approved dyes that are solubilized in water
and applied to skin to give the desired color;
usually they are in various shades of red.
While decorative, alta may be used in rituals,
too, to remember a person who has passed
away. For example, the feet of the deceased
may be decorated with alta and an impression of them made on paper to preserve the
memory of that person.
Mehndi: Indian, Bangladeshi, Pakistani
and Sri Lankan women adorn intricate patterns mehndi or henna paste on their hands
and feet for festive occasions, especially
before wedding ceremonies. Traditional
Indian designs are representations of the sun on
the palm. In some parts of India, they are applied
to grooms as well. In Rajasthan, for example, the
grooms’ designs are often as elaborate as the brides’.
In Pakistan, mehndi is often one of the most important and fun pre-wedding ceremonies, celebrated
mainly by the bride’s family. Apart from marriage, in
Assam, mehndi is also broadly used by unmarried
women during the Rongali bihu festival.
Mehndi is used to draw artistic designs on the
Mehndi is used to draw artistic designs on the hands and feet, then allowed