Malam Berinai - A Detailed Explanation

“OMG, that sure is one pretty inai design!”

“Hmm, what kind of design should I have?”

Inai or henna, a dye prepared from Henna plant that people (mostly, girls) wear on their nails and hands. Truth be told, a majority of people thought that henna is worn for fun. Conversely, wearing henna is actually a Malay wedding custom.

“Seriously? I didn’t know about that.”

So, what are you waiting for? Let’s dive into the world of Malam Berinai!

It’s Time to Define!

Well, the word malam means night whereas berinai conveys to wear henna. So, the word ‘malam berinai’ could be loosely translated as a night to wear henna. In other words, it is a henna staining night. Nonetheless, some prefer to say it as henna staining ceremony. To be frank, I prefer the latter.

The Origin of Malam Berinai

Many people believe that this old tradition originated from India. It is most likely so because of the similar henna staining in Indian wedding called Mehndi. Even so, this tradition could also have originated from Egypt as it is one of the Egyptians’ art forms.

“Huh, so does that mean it originated from both India and Egypt?”

Nice, you’re finally getting the hang out of it! And the answer to your question is a yes. Believe it or not, Malam Berinai actually comes from both India and Egypt.

“Now that’s a shocker!”

I know right.

Types of Malam Berinai

“Wow, so there are more than one?”

Yes, captain obvious. In fact, there are 3 types – berinai curi, berinai kecil and berinai besar.

Berinai Curi

“Wait, doesn’t curi means steal in Malay?”

Yup, you sure have a sharp eyesight! It is called berinai curi because apparently, some of the henna from the bride’s house is stolen for the groom’s. Normally, it is held a day after the three days before the wedding takes place with the presence of close relatives. In the past, the groom used to undergo the same ceremony at their house. But as time goes by, it is no longer being done.

Berinai Kecil

In Malay, kecil means small. Thus, you could put berinai kecil as a somewhat small henna ceremony. Well, I said small because it involves a rather modest number of people – relatives, friends and neighbours. Traditionally, it is conducted two nights before the actual wedding day. Just like berinai curi, it is held in the evening and at the bride’s house. And again, the groom no longer practices such tradition.

Berinai Besar

The word ‘besar’ is the antonym of kecil. In other way, it means big or grand. Unlike berinai curi and berinai kecil, this ceremony involves the groom too. It is also being held during the night before or after the wedding day. On top of that, this ceremony is being done for the special guests from both bride and groom. During berinai besar, the bride will wear henna on her fingers and feet. On the other hand, the groom will only apply henna on three fingers (middle, ring and pinky) at his right hand. Customarily, the ceremony is usually performed at the specially decorated throne called dias (pelamin). Both bride and groom will be seated on the dias during the ceremony. Starting from the groom, the guests will take turn to throw yellow rice at both of his sides. Then, the same process will be repeated using scented water. On top of that, the guests will put some henna paste on betel leaves and place them on the groom’s hands. The exact similar process will then be performed on the bride.

The Meaning Behind

Everything happens for some reasons. The same could be said for berinai. I mean, some would ask,

“Why do you apply henna at certain parts only but not at all?”

That’s because there are symbolic on why it is done like that. If being worn at the hands, the redness of the henna is believed to repel the evil spirits. If worn at the fingernails, it is to make the wearer appears sweet and lovely. If worn at the palm of hands, it is as a symbol to guard oneself. If worn at the feet, it is to ensure that the bride doesn’t walk away from the groom’s life.

Then and Now

In the past, people used to make their own henna from henna plant.

“Oh, my god! how did they do that?”

Don’t be too surprised, my dear. Usually, they would prepare the henna a week earlier or so. They would grind or blend the henna leaves completely and mix it with some turmeric and cold rice. Then, comes the applying process. The old henna is famous for its long-lastingness. Back then, the brides wore henna without any eccentric design or details. In spite of that, henna wearing ceremony costs them nothing. In other words, it’s free!

“What about now, today or the present?”

Woah, hold your horses. As for the present, most people just use the store-bought henna. Other than that, they would also pay professionals for henna services. Some would even buy a package for the whole family so that everyone gets to wear henna during berinai kecil. Unlike the old ones, modern henna is very unique as it has intricating design and such meticulous details.

What Is the Purpose?

For those who don’t know, the Malam Berinai tradition symbolizes the readiness of the bride and groom to start a new life together. On top of that, the Malays believe that it could prevent the occurrence of bad things.

“What do you mean by bad things?”

Oh, things like cancer, accidents or even third wheels. Other than that, it can also be seen as an act to purify oneself. However, the main purpose is to beautify the bride so that she looks glowing and healthy on her wedding day.

A Must or Not

“Is it compulsory to have Malam Berinai?”

Well, not really. It’s just a tradition. Thus, it’s okay if you decided to pass. Even so, remember that your marriage happens only once in a lifetime (hopefully). So why not splurge some of your hard-earned money for the special occasion?

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