Bees, Art, and Tradition

In his book ‘Das Lied vom Honig. Eine Kulturgeschichte der Biene’ (The Song of Honey. A Cultural History of the Bee’), the author Ralph Duttli dives into the long history of coexistence between humans and bees. In addition to references to the eras of the ‘old Greeks and Romans’, the book contains a chapter called ‚Indisches Intermezzo: Mögen unsere Kühe Honig geben’ (‘Intermezzo in India’ – may our cows produce honey’). He describes, how the Hindu God Kama ‘shoots arrows from a bow, just like the Greek God Eros’, but that Kama’s bowstring is formed by living bees. And despite this being a history of the bee, Duttli seems to be unaware that the bees described in Hindu mythology are not of the species Apis mellifera

We have asked the Indian artist, Professor Yunus Khimani, to combine in one picture God Kama (the god of love) and Bhramari Devi (the Goddess of Bees). The bowstring is formed by bees, the bow itself is made of sugar cane – another traditional element.

We feel that this is a far happier life affirming depiction when compared to Christian imagery of patron saints of bees (in particular Saint Ambrose and Saint Bernard).