Meet the IAS officer who upcycles old bottles to create pieces of art

Updated: Sep 14, 2021

A senior civil servant by profession, Mugdha is a self-taught artist who brings colours to life through bottle and mandala art.


Whether it is grotty alcohol bottles, narrow-necked ketchup containers, old cookie jars or large pickle canisters, Mugdha Sinha loves remodelling them into distinguished pieces of art.

A senior civil servant by profession, Mugdha is a self-taught artist who brings colours to life through bottle and mandala art. From turning a discarded vodka bottle into a beautiful canvas seated amidst four walls to displaying 150 bottles and 170 mandalas in her very own exhibition at Jawahar Kala Kendra in Jaipur, she has come a long way.

Some of Mugdha’s known paintings include depictions of palaces, tribal art forms, flowers, landscapes and other intricate patterns. Though the idea of using potential waste materials and converting them into alluring artwork was unintentional in the beginning, the IAS officer continued to tread the sustainable path.

“Art is a big part of my life. So, I somehow find time to engage in it even if I have a hectic schedule. The creativity and imagination associated with the process is therapeutic. It is like meditation and helps me understand myself better,” says Mugdha Sinha, Secretary, Department of Art, Literature, Culture & Archaeology, Government of India.

The takeoff

Mugdha is a 1999-batch Indian Administrative Service (IAS) officer of Rajasthan cadre. But, it was a decade after she began working, that her interest towards art re-kindled. Mugdha’s tryst with art and craft dates back to her time at school. She used to actively participate in the All India Camel Colour Contest and other drawing competitions year after year.

“I have been fascinated by art since my childhood. However, it was only in the year 2011 that I began reconnecting with it. One fine afternoon, while decluttering my house, I happened to find a report card of mine from my school - Carmel Convent in Chandigarh. It reminded me about how much I liked drawing and filling in colours. And, I took to it almost immediately,” recollects Mughda.

Mugdha enjoys experimenting with colours in her art.

Since Mugdha could not find a clean piece of paper or canvas to paint on that day, she picked up an empty vodka bottle. There was no looking back from thereon. Drawing inspiration from the Dutch post-impressionist painter, Van Gogh, her first work of art was a portrayal of some bright golden sunflowers.

Today, her collection encompasses a whopping 200 painted bottles, which she has decked up on multi level shelves at home. Wondering how this was possible? Well, Mugdha wields a unique method to source her resources. She exchanges old newspapers and other waste materials with glass bottles from the kabadiwala.

The practice of reusing and recycling items to spawn new products or pieces of art - circular economy - is a movement that is gradually picking up in today’s age. And, Mugdha is voicing out and encouraging this sustainable arrangement through her work.

The healing power

Over the years, Mugdha kept dabbling with several forms of art. In 2016, when her mother was unwell and had to be taken to AIIMS regularly, she took to meditative mandalas to drive away stress and emotional turmoil.

“I was going through a tough time. Visiting the hospital everyday for my mother’s treatment and managing my official transfer from the Government of India to the Government of Rajasthan - all at the same time, was arduous. Mandalas helped me cope with it and proved to be very therapeutic,” the bureaucrat notes.

Mandala art made by Mugdha.

Mandala art which comprises of abstract circular designs, shapes and symbols, are usually hand drawn. The experience of drawing them to reflect a state of mind is considered to be not only enriching, but also relaxing. Many psychologists and therapists recommend this creative activity to boost mental well-being. “Any form of art has a leeway for self-expression and is therapeutic,” Mugdha adds.

Not long ago, when Mugdha realised the difficulty in keeping a track of all her work of art, she took to Instagram and started revealing them to the public. This was the same reason that led to her to exhibit her bottle and mandala art at Jawahar Kala Kendra in April 2021.

In addition to all the art forms, Mugdha revels in embroidery, photography, reading, dance and yoga. She garners her inspiration from Maestros like Pablo Picasso, Édouard Manet, Salvador Dalí and Jamini Roy.

When asked about how she manages time to pursue all these activities, she says, “Planning things in advance, drawing up to-do lists and being systematic is the key.”


Some resources to help you learn more about bottle and mandala art:

  1. The healing benefits of Mandalas and Zendalas

  2. Indian artists upcycle discarded glass bottles to tableware