The art of Mehndi - skin decoration - has existed for centuries. Henna is used to stain or tatoo the fingers, toes, arms, and legs. Henna comes from a bush called Lawsonia Inermis and is grown in hot, dry places around the world.
Mehndi designs fall into four different styles - Middle Eastern, North African, Indian, and Southern Asian. The Indian designs cover more than the feet or hands - extending further up the appendages to give the illusion of gloves and stockings. The designs are made up of lines, paisley patterns, and teardrops.
In India, it is used at celebrations and special occasions which are associated with transcendence and transformation; for worship, not vanity. It is especially important for weddings/brides. The patterns used for weddings are much more intricate and time-consuming. The putting of the mehndi is a party in itself. The bride's family and friends will gather and hours are spent applying the mehndi to the bride. Her mehndi must be more beautiful and intricate than anyone else's since it's her special day. More good news for the bride is that she is not expected to do any housework until the henna is gone.
You can have mehndi done at most beauty salons in Goa. The cost may vary from place to place but it's not expensive. You should leave the mehndi to dry on your skin and keep it on for as long as possible (4 to 6 hours if possible - but at least 2 hours - you may go to bed also with it). Scrape it after that. The color will become deeper if you leave it untouched by water for another 4 to 6 hours. A deep color may last up to two weeks. The coloration varies from person to person.
Among the many people plying their trade along Palolem beach are women offering henna tattoos. I didn't personally get it done here, but I saw plenty of people who did and the tattoos all looked great (and only last a few weeks at most).
Henna painting has been an indian tradition for thousands of years. If you are lucky enough to see a professional the patterns they can achieve are intricate...amazing really. On or around most Goan beaches you can find people who will do 'henna tattoo's. Its worth having one...the dye only lasts six weeks...but if you have it done on your first or second day...the pattern will be preserved as a 'relief' to the suntan you get!
Everywhere you go you will be offered temporary tattoos made with henna. I had my feet painted ina traditional wedding design - something I've always wanted to do.