Ikebana: The Art of Exploring the Universe and Invisible through Flowers
Ikebana Flowers Arrangement
“The whole universe is contained in a single flower.”
– Toshiro Kawase, Most Influential Ikebana Master, a reclusive modern practitioner
When it comes to aesthetic and design, Japanese spearheads these processes. Be it their design principle or their art of flower arrangement or Ikebana, as it is popularly known, is every bit magnificent, cleansing and spiritual process as it claims to be. Ike in Ikebana means 'alive' and bana means 'flowers.' The Japanese have the tradition of offering flowers in the Buddhist temples. However, Ikebana didn't start in full gear until the Muromachi period that saw this art's advent into the homes and taking an all-embracing and all-encompassing form.
Japan’s Shinto Culture believes God to be at the centre and in the root of everything. Like Hindus, they believe, God to reside in every form of nature. Hence, flowers too, are an extension of God.
Ikebana is the fine line between luxury and simplicity, life and death and this world and supremacy.
What makes Ikebana different?
Ikebana is a decorative art form that arranges flowers and, in the process, merges the inside and outside, blurring the boundaries. It stands for the symbolic process that takes you to an inwards journey, a journey to within. The decorator is expected to sit in silence while arranging the flowers. In Ikebana, you don't use the space or use flowers to fill it up. You preserve and sometimes, even create space through artistic flower arrangement.
Like other Japanese design principles such as Wabi-Sabi and Miyabi, Ikebana is marked by extraordinaire minimalism, form, line, shape, balance and humanity. It is a meditative art form that lets you reflect, ponder and achieve as you have to focus your mind on the arrangement and preserving it. In the modern homes, you can even see flowers arranged and presented in a balanced line - a sprezzatura, which is a characteristic of an art form concealing the effort and work, a graceful restraint that makes it look all easy and careless.
The floral arrangement is placed in a shallow ceramic bowl, which is called utsuwa. The longest branch of the arrangement signifies the heaven and is called shin. The medium branch or soe stands for man and shortest branch or Tai, symbolises the earth. The arrangement is kept in place with the help of floral frogs – easy it may seem but the disciple of Ikebana is expected to honour the three-dimensional space with his flower arrangement.
With an Ikebana flower arrangement, one learns to maintain the fine balance between his worldly matters and his greater calling - while doing justice to everything in between.
Ideologies of Ikebana
The art form started with Buddhist temple where priests used to practice it. From a Buddhist ritual, it soon became an integral part of Japanese culture. The oldest school was Ikenobo at the Rokkaku-do temple, where the family of priests created the very first concept called Rikka. In Rikka, the blooms are considered as a more magnificent being, a part of the Universe and not just a decorative piece. As of now, one of the most popular Ikebana schools in Japan is Ohara School. The school's masters have inducted Moribana to the mainstream arrangement. The Moribana is more liberal and freehand while respecting the traditional boundaries such as asymmetry and use of uneven numbers of flowers. The followers and disciples are free to use western blooms in three styles - water-reflecting, slanting and upright.
With 3,000 schools, Ikebana has different philosophies, approaches and methodologies in trend. Regardless, the disciples spend years after years to practice the art form and fine-tune the spontaneity with the traditional principles of this art form.