Head to Brahmanda to get inspired
Founders of Art Village Karjat have built the Brahmanda, a cosmic egg meditation structure where you can find inspiration in silence
Kiran Vaghela switches on the light above his dining table and removes three eggs from the paper bag. His wife wonders what he will cook with it, for they are vegetarian. "This is for another purpose," says the 59-year-old Bhuj-based self-taught architect who empowers artisans and craftsman for rehabilitation of rural areas. This was in 2016, after his meeting with Ganga Kadakia and clay artist Savia Mahajan co-founders of Art Village Karjat (AVK).
AVK is Kadakia's dream project built by Hunnarshala, an NGO based in Bhuj. "A family member insisted I build a temple on the north east point of the property, and I refused. That's when the idea of building a meditation structure hit me," recalls Kadakia.
Ganga Kadakia (left) and clay artist Savia Mahajan co-founders of Art Village Karjat along with architect Kiran Vaghela
The inception of the idea of the Brahmand began with an illustration of an egg floating in space to represent as 'Brahm Anda' egg of universe and is also an abstraction of the beginning of all things. "I began my experiment by understanding the geometry of the egg. If you hold it on a vertical axis it is difficult to break it. After studying the geometry and the making of the eggshell it came to surface that it is a catenary curve, which happens to be one of the most stable curves, and the walls are made in layers. These parallels drew me to laminated tile structures from Catalonia which date back to the 16th Century," says Vaghela, a self-taught architect and researcher in sustainable architecture development who taps into the skills of local artisans and uses traditional wisdom in contemporary architecture.
Within a month, Vaghela had built a scaled model in his backyard to study the material and technique, parallelly going back and forth with Kadakia and Mahajan for the aesthetics of the shape. With five final drawings of differently shaped eggs, they took a poll among friends and family. "Most liked the elongated version which had both the catenary and the reverse catenary curve."
Making of the Brahmand began in October 2018, with Bhuj-based artisan Sunil Dhadhar and his team joining hands in the A-Cube Collaboration with Savia and Ganga as the artists, Sunil and his team as artisans and Vaghela's team at Studio Dot as architects. The first layer of the shell surface was made using terracotta tiles and plaster of Paris as the binder, using just a centre pole as a reference, hence not requiring any foamwork. The next two surfaces came in later with the intent of breaking the lines for a stronger bond, making it like the weaving of fabric like weft and warp.
While the egg is the innermost point of the experience, the project called Brahmanda, envisions an outer landscape which begins with a dense forest. "We want to create a forest song, for which we are trying to revive the weeds on the land. When the wind blows, it will give motion to the egg. This will hold a pond lined with lime render and fresco will depict Monet's Lilies," says Kadakia. Mahajan explains the concept. "If you go to Khajuraho, there is sexual imagery, and as you move inward, the eyes look at each other and the centre represents the yoni or cosmic egg. It is the journey from maya to shunya. I'm a city girl, and in our daily lives, how much time do we get to be in silence? A bridge leads to the meditation egg, and it is the journey from samsara [material world] to nothingness," says Mahajan, whose own work as a clay artist is inquiry based. Though she trained as a painter, since 2010, Mahajan's practice began moving away from the medium of painting, and today she works out of a pottery studio in Mumbai.
The purpose of creating this space is for people to witness silence. Six people can enter at a time, so there is the possibility of group and individual time inside. Individual eggs are also in the planning. "Without noise, there cannot be silence. Maya is important because silence is important. But, both are incomplete without each other," says Vaghela.
AVK, which lies on Karjat Road, is built in three phases - one, it is an artist community, second it is a space for people to come experience art programs, short courses and festivals and lastly, art residencies. "All our activities stem from the Indian knowledge systems, sustainable approaches and global understanding of the arts," explains Kadakia.
"Having worked as an independent artist, I felt a shift for community and collaborations. My parents offered me a three-acre land for my dream project. Today, we must go to art galleries to appreciate art where there are critics studying it. Art really should cater to common man. And we seem to have left behind artisans," says Kadakia, who hails from the Ramanand Sagar family that gave us the first viewing of Mahabharata and Ramayan television series.
When she had started constructing the centre she chose to build with earth. "I had a strong urge to go back to my roots. We got artisans from Gujarat to build bhungas - taking reference from papers Saurabh Phadke, an architect who works with natural material, had uploaded. We put cement on mud and the structures cracked because we didn't know better. That is when Phadke connected me to Kiran sir."
To bind the meditation experience to the art, in November the team will introduce sustainable workshops that will centre around inward reflection using an art form to express thoughts. The stay starts off at cost of Rs 750 which you can book through their website (https://artvillage.co/). Kadakia signs off, "What you find in the cosmic egg as you sit in silence is a personal journey to be experienced by the self."
It's next to N D Studios on Karjat Road at Chowk Phata. If you are driving down from Mumbai, exit at Shedung Pass
Staying there: Rs 750 - Rs 5000
Book your stay: CALL: +91-09820313000
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