Meditative Carvings of the Sacred 5 Leaves

Madlaina Fontana
Bachelor of Stage Design, Master of Arts in Public Spheres & Art Teaching TK MF in Sari Jan 2019 - 3 - edited

“My intuition brought me … for a reason. I was at the right time at the right place. Also I was impressed with your knowledge. Every day was a new surprise. Incredible!”

Madlaina Fontana teaches art in Switzerland. She is interested in etching, wood-cut, and all hand-made printing. She is passionate about meditation and Yoga which she has been practicing for many years.

She participated with our programme for over a month during Christmas across December 2018 and January 2019. She was trained with Sun Salutationes Yoga, mantra chanting, and playing the conch.  mf 1

Representing AZIMVTH, Madlaina participated in the following at Haridwar / near by –

  • Literature festival
  • A conference on Ganges
  • Stone carvings at Akshar Dham temple
  • Art and archaeology museum at Haridwar
  • National Gallery of Modern Art New Delhi
  • Wedding ceremony in Haridwar
  • Local artisans in Haridwar making – hand made paper, incense sticks, manual screen printing, weaving hand-looms

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Art made before coming to AZIMVTH  mf 3
Some examples of art Madlaina created before coming to AZIMVTH are shown below.
“Glisch e Nair” (Photography/ intaglio print, each 20 x 20 cm)
“(Ze) Fallende Frau” Aquatina. 55 x 75 cm.
“Plastik Mountains” Plastic print, experimental

Projects at AZIMVTH

Project A: Panch Vati: Funf Blatter (5 Sacred leaves)

panch vati - all 12 art works in one image

mf blocks in switzerlandBased upon her birth details, as per the Indian astrology, it was determined that her birth tree is ‘Neem’, one of the possible 27 trees that astrology outlines for each person. This seeded her main project. Neem is one of the 5 trees that constitute ‘Panch Vati’.

Panch Vati literally means a grove of five trees. It finds mention in Ramayana, the epic scripture relating to story dating back to Treta Yuga (several millenia B.C.) of Lord Rama, an Avatar of Lord Vishnu, one of the Trinity. Lord Rama, Sita, and Lakshmana first lived in Panch Vati while in exile for fourteen years.

आगताः स्म यथा उद्दिष्टम् यम् देशम् मुनिः अब्रवीत् |
अयम् पंचवटी देशः सौम्य पुष्पित काननः || ३-१५-२

“Oh, gentle Lakshmana, we have arrived at this place, as indicated by the sage; this region having flowered forests is Panch Vati.”

tk mf at neem tree nakshatra vatika jan 2019 - 1Inspired with this, Panch Vati is also the formal name of the official residence (at Race Course Road in New Delhi) of the Prime Minister of India.

There are several variations of the epic mentioning the names of the five trees which could allegorically relate to the 5 elements. An interpretation of the five trees includes  –

Amla (Indian Gooseberry or Phyllanthus emblica), Peepal (Sacred Fig or Ficus religiosa), Vatta (Banyan Tree or Ficus benghalensis), Bilva (Wood Apple or Aegle marmelos), and Neem (Margosa Tree or Azadirachta indica). tk mf at neem tree nakshatra vatika dec 2018 - 7

These 5 trees are part of the larger group of 27 trees that form Nakshatra Vatika which relates directly to the 27 Nakshatras (Lunar houses) of Jyotish, the Hindu astrological system. The 27 Nakshatras are related to the 27 phases of waxing and waning of Moon from one full Moon night to the next. Based upon the birth date / time / place, every one belongs to one of the 27 Nakshatras / trees. It is believed that the life of a person is enriched when she waters her own tree.

tk mf tracing of 5 leavesThe Nakshatra Vatika in Haridwar, India comprises of these 27 trees positioned in a specific geometrical / astrological pattern.

Madlaina visited the Nakshatra Vatika and studied the 5 trees in detail. She made drawing of the leaves of the 5 trees.

Madlaina was attracted to a wood block that was lying in a corner on a shelf at an AZIMVTH studio. It had an intricate design carved in it. She immediately remembered a set of wood blocks she had bought from a pawn shop in Switzerland. She always used to wonder what those were. The person at the pawn shoptk mf drawing 5 leaves had told her that someone from a very small village (near Samedan in Switzerland) that has just about a dozen houses had given those to her.

Madlaina was taken to the river side in Haridwar from where AZIMVTH had procured the wood block. It turned out that the street artists near the river use the blocks to make native tattoos on skin. The local dyeing artisan tried using the AZIMVTH block to print on fabric.

tk mf coloured neem leavesThe bed sheets and furnishings being used at AZIMVTH are all hand made and hand mf wood blocks at river frontprinted. Madlaina visited the retail shops where such products are sold,

The search took her on a guided visit to a small town 150 km away from Haridwar. The place is a centre for hand block printing and wood block making. An artisan there used her drawing of a Neem leaf and made a wood block for printing on fabric. tk mf fabric dyeing trial kathara jwalapur dec 2018

She was taken on a curated visit to New Delhi and visited the national gallery of art and other art venues.

Madlaina carved the designs of the 5 leaves in thick rubber sheets to make artistic rubber-mf leaves carved in rubber sheetsstamps. She also made 5 more artistic stamps, keeping the designs of the wood blocks she has at Switzerland in mind, the 5 elements – fire, air, ether, earth, and water.  Utilising these 10 stamps, she created a set of 12 art-works.

A work shop was conducted at an orphanage in Haridwar and about 40 children used the 10 stamps and 4 colour ink-pads to create various designs on post-card sized paper. About 100 art-works were created by the children.

tk mf work shop with children at sra

Project B: Wooden Perspectives of Sun Salutationes Yoga

tk mf wood cut sun salutationes - landscapeMadlaina was trained in Sun Salutationes Yoga with which she was already familiar. She learnt accurate chanting of relevant mantras and mastered speaking original Sanskrit names for each of the 12 steps. Being a wood-artist, she was inspired to carve the 12 Asanas, or the postures, in wood. She had brought with her wood pieces and tool box for wood carving. She used this to make prints of the wood cut.

She also created scores of different aspects from these prints. Images for 5 of these prints can be seen in the adjoining album titled ‘Wooden Perspectives of Sun Salutationes Yoga’.

Project C. Other Wood Cuts

Madlaina made several other wood cut arts and also made prints from them.

tk mf other wood cuts  mf print from other wood cut

Project D: Photography of Nights and the First Sun of 2019 tk mf ceremony for departed jan 2019

Madlaina brought with her high resolution digital camera and an analog camera with 6 rolls of black & white as well as coloured films. A theme she focused on was scenes of Haridwar. AZIMVTH TK MF at opposite side of Arya Nagar Ghat Jan 2019 - 1supports artists with local collaborations. She spent time with an Indian professional landscape photographer and shot the first Sun of the year on 01 January 2019 near Kunjpuri temple further up Rishikesh.

Album titled ‘First Sun of 2019’ contain some relevant images and can be seen on this page.

Project E. Analog photography.

With her analog camera, Madlaina clicked several black & white as well as coloured film rolls. She developed them in Switzerland.

Impact and Next Levels

Several follow-ups are planned for the near future, some being listed below – MF in Sari and Cap

  • Dissemination of ‘Panch Vati’ project: A limited edition publishing of 100 re-makes of the 12 art-works of the Panch Vati series will be completed. These will be energised with the holy Ganga water. More information can be seen here.
  • Exchange of arts: The 100 cards created by children in Haridwar will be shared with children in Switzerland. More information is available here.
  • Documentary: It will be evaluated if a documentary can be made covering  Madlaina’s journey triggered by seeing a hand-block at AZIMVTH.


Madlaina gifted a complete set of wood carving tools, 12 original art-works made from 5 leaves and 5 elements, 3 original wood cuts, a calligraphy brush, and several prints to AZIMVTH. tk mf wood cut tools - landscape

“To do wood-cut in Sun was amazing. Amazing wood-block. Thank you coincidence! … Every (time) was a new experience… I liked to learn the Sun Salutation, chanting, playing conch, etc. that I really learned something new. I learned a lot of content, that was nice… The food was very healthy. I liked the food very much…. I will recommend it (AZIMVTH) to other artists.”