A Quick Explainer On What Every Henna Design Means

by Raj Desai | 4/4/22

Illustration of hands with different henna designs

It was a beautiful, breezy spring day. The kind where the birds are chirping and the sky is bright blue. The sun poured into the window and felt like a warm, cozy blanket. To achieve optimal comfort, I adjusted my body in my seat and slouched deeper into the chair. The hum of the building’s old air conditioning unit was like a sound machine, and my eyes started to glaze over when I heard, “Raj, what does the use of the color yellow mean?”

I jolted upright and managed to get a few “Uhhs” out (By the way, why does everything have to have some deep literary meaning? Maybe the author liked the color yellow. 🤷🏾‍♀️)


Was I supposed to know what all the colors mean? Why did my English professor single me out? My anxious heart was racing. Then she prefaced her response with, “Well, in India…


Oh, but of course! I am Indian, and therefore I must know the symbolism of everything past and present in a vast country that’s home to different cultures, religions, and languages that I have never lived in and have visited only a handful of times. I can’t even speak Punjabi fluently, but symbolism of colors? 

Unless you’re my zany English professor, a cultured South Asian historophile, or an influencer brainstorming deep Instagram captions, it’s highly unlikely that you have this kind of knowledge in your backpocket. Hell, I *still* don’t know what the use of the color yellow means. (Nm, just Googled it: Purity and sensuality).


What I do know is that there is so much about India and South Asia that holds some kind of higher, cosmic meaning. Like colors, yoga, hands, dance—and mehndi designs. 


I’m sure that there are tons of mehndi artists out there who don’t base their designs on each artistic element’s meaning, but rather draw whatever comes to mind. And maybe you’re happy picking out a design from their portfolio that looks pretty (that’s what I did, and what most brides probably do).


But wouldn’t it be nice to know what the design that you picked means? Now you will.


Messengers between heaven and earth. Specific birds hold different meaning, like peacocks for beauty, love, and passion; and swans for love, grace, and loyalty.

Dragonflies, Butterflies

Change and rebirth.

Flatlay photo of henna hand party plates and peonies

Mehndi party plates

That you can’t find anywhere else.




Happiness and joy. Specific flowers hold different meaning, like lotuses for purity and enlightenment; marigolds for light and strength.


Luck, fertility.


A flower with hundreds of petals that resembles a lotus. Means purity, unity of a person’s soul with the divine.

Single Dot

The end of one phase and the start of another (full stop). 

Vines, Leaves

Devotion, vitality.

Raj Desai

Content strategist and UX writer who’s been researching and writing about weddings for 5 years. Addicted to Netflix, dirty martinis, and naps.

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