Saturday, August 10, 2013
Henna Traditions and Symbolism

Because henna is part of many cultural traditions accross many regions there are a number of symbols used within the art and each have various meanings and uses.
Here are some of the more popular symbols and blessings used within mehndi art:

Palm decoration ~ designs invoke images of opening and offering (usually sun, flower, mandala)
Back of hand decoration ~ acts as a shield-closing, defending, clenching-symbolizing protection.
Right hand ~ Male, Projective
Left hand ~ Female, Receptive
Feet ~ The feet are recognized as a point of divine contact, considered a holy junction,
where Human being and Earth meet.

Peacocks ~ beauty
Swans ~ success
Birds ~ messengers (between heaven and earth)
Butterflies ~ transformation
Parrots ~ messengers of love
Dragonflies ~ rebirth
Fishes ~ a womans eyes
Scorpian ~ love and romance, its sting is analogous to Cupid's arrow while being stung produces the same effects as being in love - glittering eyes, breathless, heat and feverish
Flowers ~ joy and happiness
Vines and leaves ~ longevity, devotion, perseverance, entwined lives and vitality
Lizards and snakes ~ seekers of enlightenment
Tortoise ~ Protection and fertility
Lotus Blossom ~ the light within / the awakening of the human soul. Grace, beauty, creativity, sensuality, femininity, and purity.
Sahasrara ~ thousand-petal lotus ~ uniting the soul with the 'Divine Source'
Sun, Moon,and Stars ~ deep and lasting love between lovers/partners
Paiselys ~ represent fertility and good luck
Eye ~ said to mirror back the 'Evil Eye'
The bud ~ signifying new growth especially at the end of a drought, and thus represent new life, fertility and joy - or as a metaphor in bridal mehndi to symbolise the start of a new love and a new life.
ZigZag ~ this symbol means "rain" and represents fertility and abundance.
The game (chess board) ~ an ancient symbol which, in different variants, represents happiness and joyful moments.
Ripples ~ represent running water, which purifies and brings life. Also symbolising human emotion.
Square ~ magical, used to heal and protect the sick.

resource :

  • On the palm: typically mandalas, flowers, or the sun. Evokes offering and opening
  • Right hand: projective, masculine
  • Left hand: receptive, feminine
  • Back of the hand: defending, closing, symbolizes protection
  • Feet: recognized as a holy intersection divine contact point where mother earth and humans meet
  • Right eye: male power, sun
  • Left eye: female power, moon
  • Adjoined lines: symbolizes life’s duality
  • Downwards triangle: passive feminine water symbol and grace coming down from heaven
  • Triangle: active masculine fire symbol and grace going up to heaven
  • Stars: hope and divinity
  • 5 pointed star: the 5 elements of heaven, air, earth, water, and fire
  • Diamond: enlightenment
  • Square: shelter, honesty, and permanence. Also symbolizes healing and protection of the afflicted
  • Cross: considered a cosmic symbol
  • Octagon: protection
  • Crescent moon: a newborn baby
  • Circle: wholeness, unity, and totality
  • Palm branches: fertility
  • Peacocks: passion, desire, and love
  • Lotus blossom: womanhood, cleanliness, purity, tree of life, chastity, the light inside us all, the soul awakening, sensuality, grace, creativity
  • Paisleys: virginity, beauty, good fortune
  • Butterfly: metamorphosis, transformation
  • Swan: success
  • Birds: messengers between the earth and heaven
  • Dragonfly: rebirth
  • Parrots: love messengers
  • Fishes: eyes of a woman
  • Flowers: happiness, joy
  • Scorpion: romance, passion, and love. A scorpion’s sting is said to be similar to the effects of Cupid’s arrow such that people in love feel feverish and breathless
  • Leaves and vines: vitality, perseverance, devotion, longevity, and lives entwined
  • Snakes and lizards: enlightenment seekers
  • Tortoises: fertility and protection
  • Thousand petal lotus blossoms: the soul uniting with the divine, light Sahasrara
  • Buds: symbolizes fertility, new life, and rebirth
  • Ripples: symbolizes emotion and flowing / running water for bringing life and purification
  • Stars, moon, and sun: connotes the enduring and deep love between life partners / lovers
  • Chessboard / game: comes in a host of variants as with mandalas. An ancient symbol representing life’s joyful and happy moments
  • Zigzags: represents abundance and fertility and symbolizes rain
resource :

Symbolism in Tantric Philosophy
Point (Bindu)- The Supreme Reality
Seed (Bija)- The mysterious matrix in which everything emanates and merges.
All symbols begin with the seed.
Triangle -
Pointing up (Shiva)- Signifies active male principle. Resting on its base it represents fire, and the ascent to heaven.
Pointing down (Shakti) - Signifies active female principle. Reflects all that is feminine-water, fertile valleys, and grace descending from heaven.
Six Point Star (Satkona)- Signifies union of feminine and masculine principles.
Square (Catuskona)- Stability and order. Implies honesty, dependability, and shelter.
Diamond (Vajra)- Enlightenment.
Pentagram (Pancakona)- The 5 sections symbolize elements of fire, water, earth, air, and heavens.
Circle (Cakra)- Whole, perfect, infinite.
Mandalas- Concentric forms relating to a center point. By concentrating on a mandala the viewer penetrates the many layers of reality and moves towards an inner truth.
Flowers- Joy and happiness.
Lotus Flower- The awakening of the human soul. Grace, beauty, creativity, sensuality, femininity, and purity.
Sahasrara ~thousand-petal lotus~ uniting the soul with the 'Divine Source'
Sun, Moon,and Stars- Deep and lasting love between lovers/partners.
Vines- Devotion and perseverance, invoking both tenderness and vitality.
Peacock (Mayura)~ Companion while separated from a loved one.
Swan (Hamsa)~ Success.
Scorpion (Bicchu)- Romance, its sting is analogous to Cupid's arrow.
Water- Human emotion.
Raindrops (Bundakis)~ Love and affection of a woman.
Waves (Lahariya)~ Deep passion and ecstasy.

Symbolism from Morocco
Eye - Said to mirror back the 'Evil Eye'.
Square - Magical, used to heal and protect sick.
Water - Earth's fertility.
Bird - Messenger (between heaven and earth).
Tortoise - Protection, and fertility (from its relationship to water).
Lizard - Soul's search for enlightenment.

resource :

Mehendi Symbols, Patterns and meanings

Mehendi is a custom or tradition in India that has been present and handed down for centuries together. Initially used mainly for its healing and cooling properties, Mehendi, or "Henna" as its more popularly known here, has become famous for its designs all the way till the West. Today Mehendi designing has become commercial and is part of many important Indian ocassions, infact in an Indian wedding the "Mehendi" is a seperate day and occassion itself!

Mehendi designing is much more than just 'designing'. Like everything traditional in India, it symoblises a lot more than being just pleasing to look and feel, its mostly known to bring Good luck to the wearer. The darker the color the better the luck!..

I have done research on what these Mehendi symbols and motifs mean and have listed some of the main motifs incorporated in Mehendi designs.

In India, board games have been popular since time immemorial. This simple
representation of a game board is a traditional Indian henna pattern dating at least to the late 19th century, and continues to be included in contemporary patterns. Artists may include this pattern as a metaphor for the "game of chance" that is a marriage, or as an expression of games as an enjoyable holiday activity.*

"Some people call this pattern a scorpion, some call it a pot hook, others call it a meander, some see it as a growing vine, while others speculate that it was used as an ancient symbol of reincarnation or life force. As a simple image of a scorpion, it is a symbol dating to the Middle Eastern late neolithic and early Bronze age and was associated with
women. The scorpion was a symbol of the goddess Inanna. Henna patterns from Rajasthan from before 1950 often have little scorpions on the fingers. Old henna and love songs use the metaphor of the scorpion for love: love, like a scorpion sting, makes one breathless, causes a massive hot hard swelling, and the inflamed part feels better when
dunked into something moist and soothing. The scorpion is also used in henna as a protective amulet, to "sting" the Evil Eye."

The Bud is one motif that is used widely by designers in mehendi in India and world over. Buds signify new growth like at the end of a drought and at the beginning of a rainy season or as a metaphor in bridal mehendi to symbolise the start of a new love and a new life.

Water ripples.

Ripples with bubbles in them.

Peacocks and the paisely are supposed to represent fertility and good luck.

These patterns are known as mandalas which means 'circle'and these circles are made to symbolise the Sun. The sun holds a lot of importance in Hinduism. It symbolises caring and protective of infertility, hunger, and sorrows of old age and death;It is also a symbol of blessing and fertility , resource :


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