By Shivi Verma
Shivi Verma meets Pawan Aswani, a mandala maestro who claims that the art can cause transformation in people Pawan Aswani is a fashion designer, hair stylist, jewellery designer, an interior decorator. However, as far as we are concerned, he is a mandala artist par excellence.
Pawan believes that his mandalas have the power to create magic in the lives of people by bringing a much-needed balance in their lives. The maddening duality of life which torments people gets balanced and eased out when they connect to their inner superconscious self by drawing and painting mandalas. The bindu or the dot which is the starting point of all mandalas is considered to be the origin of the universe and the moment people form it, they start connecting to their divine origin.
Always a creative person, he came across his first mandala at the age of 12 when he saw a mandala painting by Sri H S Raza, one of India’s finest artists. “He is 95 now. And I have deep reverence for him. His mandalas are always focussed on a bindu. And all mandalas carry energy. They made me feel and connect deeply to myself,” says Pawan. A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Buddhist and Hindu traditions, representing the universe. In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any diagram, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a microcosm of the universe. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas are employed for focussing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.
For Pawan, a mandala is a bridge that connects his relative reality to the absolute reality. It is something which gives him an access, a doorway into the blissful world of his inner universe as well as the world beyond. My eyes were drawn to a big mandala painting leaning against a wall. It showed a lotus flower forming in the skull of a person. The base was blue with streaks of red, maroon, green and purple. “It’s a painting by one of my students and is representative of her spiritual awakening. She did not know that she would make it but as is usual with a mandala, you realise that it draws itself and manifests your past, present and even future. If hung on the wall, it works on your energies, and improves your life situation.” According to Pawan, a mandala will always generate its own energy. “Even if you place a mandala consisting of a simple geometric design in your house, it will manifest energy in your space. That’s how magical it is.”
Pawan holds classes to pass his craft along but considers the art form to be nothing less than a tool for transformation. Through the mandala work people connect to their inner self, and undo their ego. “Sometimes people break down while doing them. Others go into deep silence and slowly the transformation and the manifestation happens,” he says.
A Hindu by birth, his interest in mandalas arose out of his Buddhist practice. “A few years ago when I was with my guru in Kathmandu for a 13-day retreat, I got this realisation that I must paint mandalas. I felt it was my inner calling. At that time I did not think that I wanted to teach mandalas, take classes, or even become a painter. All I knew was that I had to do them. I went to the US and enrolled for a mandala painting class. I had it in my mind that I would do my first mandala for my guru and wanted to use the colour blue. But as soon as I started painting I started using the colour brown. A colour I did not like back then. And then I knew that it was for my father. I wept hard while doing it. I ate so many chocolates. It was then that I realised that mandalas had their own power. They surface, heal and transform.” He continues, “And after I gifted it to my father and it hung on his wall, my relationship with him underwent a massive change. We are different people. He is a businessman whereas I am an artist, so our interaction has been conflicting. But over time we have understood that it is possible to agree to disagree. There is greater acceptance of each other’s difference. That’s why I tell the students who come to me to not think or plan much.”
He adds, “The mandala will tell you what it wants you to do. When you start it, you feel you are the one doing it, but along the way you realise that you, along with the mandala, are doing it. You are using your hands to express what deep down you actually are, what you were and what you are going to be. I’ve had people who got their marriages fixed, relationships healed, and greater abundance happen after they painted their mandala or commissioned me to do it for them. Initially, I gifted the paintings to my friends and relatives. I was myself amazed by its power to impact their lives.” All mandalas arise out of a basic geometric grid. Pawan explained that different mandala artists use the grid differently. Some work strictly with specific geometry which is called sacred geometry while some of them are hybrids. “We also work with sacred geometry but we inculcate feelings into it. I don’t work only with sacred geometry because I feel it’s too constricting for me. I want to create fluidity, vastness and expanse,” he observes. His house, which is spartan and zen-like, is decorated with his mandala drawings and paintings. Some are geometric while others are very fluid, but each has a story behind it and a distinct energy. My photographer, Kuntesh, who was on assignment with me, fell in love with the paintings, and requested to be taken in as a student. And Pawan gladly accepted. So I saw the magic happen before my eyes.
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