Mehndi Maharani

By Rachna Bhatt

Chatting over cups of chai with samosas and surrounded by Neeta Sharma’s amazing display of henna work at her offi ce at the Vivah Lounge, we discussed her incredible 25-year journey with henna.

How did you start on this amazing journey?

I am a self-taught artist, learning as a hobby without formal training. I did henna for anyone and everyone who was willing to be my canvas. Few people truly understand my depth of passion for this art. As I apply my art, I am in a trance.

My fi rst paid gig was in 1992 at the beginning of the henna explosion in the international media, with Madonna leading the charge. As a result I received a lot of recognition in the Australian press. Since then, I’ve had opportunities to teach in Australia, Canada and now in the U.S. In all my journeys across the globe, mehndi has been the common factor that traveled with me and helped me survive the transitions.

What wisdom have you acquired in 25 years of henna artistry?

The past 25 years have been an incredible henna journey. Going from assisting other artists to winning a Bay Area henna competition is extremely fulfi lling. I’ve published over a dozen e-books on my art and teach henna at various institutes. I am always humbled by the overwhelming love and international support at the Spring Fling annual henna conference, which I co-founded. Winning the title Mehndi Maharani was a validating experience as a lot of brides, my students and well wishers had voted to select the winner from all over the world.

Where do you see yourself going next with henna?

I will continue following my passion, sharing my art as a teacher. This is a good change from earlier days when people were secretive and not willing to share their knowledge. A groom’s father once told me that a henna artist kicks off the wedding festivities.

Photos courtesy of American Photo Bank, Creative Vision Studio, Diane Angel Photography, Grand Design Photography, Rama Photo Video, Vision One Studio