Delhi Ikebana International - The Beginning
The love of flowers is universal and their use, with other plant material in an appealing way, forms an inherent desire in people with an artistic bent of mind.
In 1960 Mrs. Meera Sawhney, wife of Delhi based industrialist, organised a flower arranging demonstration for the first time. Exponents of the different styles were invited for a week long programme, during which demonstrations of both traditional and modern styles in the Western as well as Oriental art of flower arrangement were held. The meeting attracted people of all ages to learn the intricate art of flower arranging. Demonstrators would collect plant material from Mrs. Sawhney’s sprawling garden and show to bring the beauty of flowers to life inside the house. Thereafter the formal art of flower arranging in Delhi was to stay.
The real boost to the development of art of Ikebana in Delhi came with the arrival of Mrs. Mitsue Stien, wife of an American executive employed with Technical Co-operative Mission. She saw a trained teacher of Sogetsu School of Ikebana, and concentrated solely on this uniquely Japanese style of flower arrangement. She would hold classes on the rooftop of her Sunder Nagar apartment. Her enthusiastic students would come upstairs, laden with material, for lessons in flower arrangement. The first student whom she trained as teachers were Uma Rao, Veena Das, Indu Punj, Nirmal Kapur, Homi Vyarawalla, Roshan Lalkaka and Uma Sharma. Aware of her student’s intense interest in Ikebana, she suggested the opening of a line of communication with Ikebana International. The groundwork for the introduction of Ikebana in Delhi, nay India was laid. Mes. Stien, alongwith some other ladies committed and devoted to Ikebana, got together and formed a registered study group of Ikebana International. In January of 1966, it became a full fledge chapter; NEW DELHI, INDIA # 77. Its first president was Mrs. Rokshi Gundevia. The founder members were Rokshi Gundevia, Meera Sawhney, Devika Trivedi, Mitsue Stien, Uma Rao, Rafat Saheer, S.Kapoor, Kamla Sondhi, Indrani Saran, L. Shukla, Mohini Bazaz. The stage was set to promote the art form and establish a link with Ikebana enthusiasts throughout the world. It was only a matter of time before the idea caught on in India, and a chapter was started in Mumbai, Banglore and Madras, Hyderabad too is registered as a prospective Chapter.
The first annual exhibition was held on 25th of February 1966. The theme was “life of Jawaharlal Nehru” and was inaugurated by Mrs. Indira Gandhi. Prizes such as the “Judges Prizes” and the “Audience Prizes” were awarded. The annual exhibition became a major event on Delhi’s cultural calendar. Over the years personalities like Mrs.Vijay Lakshmi Pandit, Mrs. Sarojini Naidu, Dr. Zakhir Hussain, Dr. Shankar Dayal Sharma, Mrs. Hidayatullah, to name a few, have inaugurated the annual exhibitions.
Mrs. Indira Gandhi very kindly agreed to become the patron of the association and showed keen interest in its activities. She would always visit the annual exhibitions until her very busy schedule took its toll. It was on her behest that the association was invited to arrange flowers at the venue of various national and international events. These included the meetings of the heads of the Non Align Movement (NAM), Conference of the heads of the Common Wealth Countries (CHOGM) , meetings of the South Asian Regional Representatives (SAARC), Asian Games held in New Delhi in 1982. Over the years, the members of the Delhi Chapter have often arranged flowers at the Rashtrapati Bhawan (President;s residence) and at the Teen Mutri Bhawan, the Nehru Memorial Museum. The next decade also saw visits of masters of Ikenobo, O’hara, Sogetsu, Sagagoryu and Chiko schools amongst many others.
Consistent with the sprit of internationalism in our ever shrinking world, our delegates have regularly been attending Ikebana World Conventions and Regional Conferences. In 1991 the association celebrated it silver jubilee with much fanfare. The Chief Guests were the delegates from Pakistan. They, in turn later reciprocated by inviting members of Delhi Ikebana International for their celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of independence.
The later feather in the association’s cap was the Fifth Asian Regional Conference at New Delhi, hosted jointly with Maurya Sheraton Hotels & Towers. This coming together of different countries and cultures proved, yet again, the Ikebana message of “Friendship through flowers” - all around the world.