I love mandalas. I’ve always loved drawing mandalas, and I’m constantly creating and adding to my series of mandala paintings titled ‘Microcosm‘. For me, It’s a lovely meditation and a great way to improve my focus.
“Mandala” means “circle.” And a circle is both a simple and deeply complex concept. It represents the universe metaphysically, the cosmos, a microcosm of the universe. It signifies connection, wholeness and the cycle of life.
I love Tibetan sand mandalas in particular, because of their ephemeral nature. Monks will spend days perfecting a sand mandala and, when it’s done, they will sweep up the sand into a jar then empty it into a nearby body of water.
It is a meditation on impermanence.
So, when I heard about a floral mandala contest happening in our community – I jumped at it because I wanted to do something similar. I wanted to create beautiful and complex creations out of natural flowers available in our garden and neighboring gardens, that only last for awhile, until they are swept away at the end of the day. A kind of art that is more an offering and a meditation. It was more about the process of creating art than the final product.
It’s very easy to make one, and it can be extremely simple or very complex. It’s all up to you really.
I began by gathering 29 different types of flowers and leaves at 6 am on that rainy morning along with my brother who’s such a sport. Hopefully you too can gather them from your own yard or a friend’s garden, but if you need to, you can buy a bouquet or two at your florist.
Literally everyone else who participated in the floral mandala contest bought the flowers from the market – as it is customary to use a combination of marigolds, roses; flowers commonly used to make garlands for Hindu gods.
I chose to use found objects versus using flowers as a commodity – whole flowers handpicked from our community because I also wanted it to remind people of the beauty that surrounds their homes everyday.
However, the Onam floral mandalas are usually made by pulling the petals off and using petals to fill the design. I also gathered some colorful leaves.
I had to create the mandala in an assigned spot on the rooftop of our community center. But you are free to decide where you will make yours. It could be on the grass outside, or on a tabletop in your house, or on a tray that could be carried from place to place. A shallow bowl could be filled with water, to allow the blossoms to last a bit longer. There are special flat brass containers available at most traditional Indian handicrafts stores called ‘Urlis’ specially for this purpose.
Think about a color scheme, based on the flowers that you have gathered. Think about big pieces and small pieces. Get creative with what you have. Choose a whole flower for the very center of the mandala and put it in place. Then build circular layers out from there.
Enjoy its ephemeral beauty for as long as it lasts, then gather up the wilting petals and leaves, and offer them to the wind or a stream, pond, lake or by the seashore. It’s a beautiful lesson in letting go.
(This was part of my Found Objects Floral Mandala Art Project in Palm Meadows, Bangalore on the occasion of Onam, a harvest festival. It was on view for a day on 17 September, 2017)