Henna: An Artform Practiced by the Gods

Krishna painting henna design on Radha's palm

“Krishna Painting a Henna Design on Radha’s Palm” by B.G. Sharma.

Everybody loves henna tattoos—even the gods. It is common knowledge that artists are able to tap into the realm of the divine, from which inspiration flows. Famed Rajasthani artist B.G. Sharma, known for his exquisite and meticulous devotional paintings of Hindu gods, and Krishna in particular, was obviously privy to a henna-inspired vision. As the featured painting here shows, Krishna lovingly paints his beloved Radha’s hand with henna, while tenderly gazing upon her (not sure how you paint and gaze at the same time, but hey, he’s a god, right?).

Although Krishna had many wives (seven queens and over 16,000 princesses), Radha—revered as the goddess of kindness, love, and beauty—is the lover most associated with him for the intense love and longing she experienced for the blue god. She was the gopi of all gopis! (A gopi is a term used to describe a group of milkmaids known for their unconditional devotion to Krishna.) This was no ordinary love, either, because their story, and and that of Radha in particular, is seen as a symbol of the individual self wanting desperately to merge with the universal self (Krishna). This is powerful stuff!

And how appropriate to have henna and mehndi (a Hindi word for henna body painting) implicated in this transcendent affair. As you probably already know, mehndi is an important part of all Indian wedding ceremonies. Every bride has her hands and feet painted with henna, because legend has it that the plant is imbued with the potency of the saints, along with their power to bring love, good fortune, and abundance to the couple. I would hazard a guess that, at some point along the way, Krishna engaged in the ritual of painting Radha’s hands with henna in order to symbolize their historic love, although they were never formally married. There’s probably mention of it in the Baghavad Gita somewhere. Either that, or the artist saw the scene in a dream. And everyone knows that dreams present us with alternate planes of past and future, which we get to visit while we sleep, right? That’s my feeling about dreams, in any case.

So there you have it. Henna body painting is a magical thing of beauty, encompassing both cosmic love and an exquisitely earthly tradition of body ornamentation. The two just go together. Even the gods agree!

To see more beautiful paintings by B.G. Sharma, do visit his website. And to paint your body so beautiful that Krishna himself would lavish attention on you, visit our website to avail yourself of our easy-to-use Earth Henna Temporary Tattoo Kits!

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