This design was inspired by the bharatnatyam dance costume worn by a dancer at the Wellesley Diwali event this Sunday! It was a unique way of wearing the saree, even compared to other bharatnatyam costumes I have seen. The pleat was off to the side, giving a sassy, asymmetrical look.

Per the weekly challenges that Leah McCloskey has been issuing on the Henna Gathering group, I was on a mission to find inspiration from fabric for a design. I think the idea was to take motifs from the fabric patterning itself, maybe – so I wasn’t too sure whether mostly focusing on the pleating would fly. But I figured she’d forgive me even if not. And plus, I was running out of time – so I went for it.

I first turned to my copy of “Indian Classical Dance: Tradition in Transition” by Leela Venkataraman and Avinash Pasricha for high resolution photos of just what this pleating really looks like, so I could get ideas for how to go about drawing it.  This is one of few things that remain from my brief stint learning bharatnatyam style of dance – in case you were wondering if it’s something you can “just pick up” the answer is a resounding NO. Think of it as being a classically, formally trained ballet dancer.

Anyway, I digress – back to the henna. After getting the pleating pretty well down, I then looked through the book again, paying special attention to the beautiful waist belts and other jewelry that bharatnatyam dancers wear. There is an especially beautiful photo with many rings, and another that shows a waist belt with many images of Ganapati / Lord Ganesha – those are also incorporated in the design. Since the bracelet is so very much scaled down from the waistband, you can just see the faintest hint of some shapes that look a seated Ganapati.  The one element of this design that is not copied from dance costuming or jewelry is the chains that connect some of the different rings. These would be impractical for dancing, but gave nice flow and composition to a design that was othewise wanting in both areas before they were added.

I had a great time doing this piece, and would like to wish all who are celebrating a Happy Diwali!