mandala art

What is Mandala Art?

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Mandala art is a geometric design that holds a great deal of symbolism in Hindu and Buddhist cultures. Mandala art is a Sanskrit word for “magic circle”. 

People believed that Mandalas represent different aspects of the universe and are used as instruments of meditation and symbols of prayer most noticeably in China, Japan, and Tibet.

Mandala art is very popular like other famous paintings in history.

Basically mandalas are circles contained within a square and arranged into sections that are all organized around a single, central point.

Mandalas are typically produced on paper or cloth and drawn on a surface with threads, fashioned in bronze, or built-in stone.

Mandalas hold symbolic and meditative meaning beyond their vibrant appearance.

In Modern  Age, the mandala is a diagram, chart, or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically; a time-microcosm of the universe, but it originally meant to represent the full model for the organizational structure of life itself. A cosmic diagram that represents the relation to the infinite and the world that extends beyond and within minds and bodies.

What is a mandala art?

In Asian cultures, a mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol. We can understand that mandala in two different ways

  1. Externally as a visual representation of the universe or
  2. Internally as a guide for various practices that take place in many Asian traditions, including meditation.

How to create mandala art?

Mandala art in Hinduism

In Hinduism, a simple basic mandala is also called a yantra which takes the form of a square with four gates holding a circle with a center point.

Every gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often have radial balance.

A yantra is similar to a mandala. usually, yantra is smaller and using a more limited color palette. A Yantra may be a two- or three-dimensional geometric composition that used in worship or meditative rituals and may incorporate a mantra into its design.

It is considered to represent the abode of the deity. Each yantra is different and the yantra calls the deity into the presence of the practitioner through the elaborate symbolic geometric designs.

Mandala appears in the Rigveda as the name of the sections of the work, and Vedic rituals use mandalas such as the Navagraha mandala to this day.

Mandala art in Buddhism

Mandalas have been developed also into sandpainting in Vajrayana Buddhism. Mandalas are also a key part of Anuttarayoga Tantra meditation practices.

In Hinduism and Buddhism, people believe that when you are entering the mandala and proceeding towards its center, you are guided through the cosmic process of transforming the universe from one of suffering into one of joy and happiness.

Have you noticed that our earth is also a mandala? Yes, it is true.  There are Mandalas in nature and man-made design everywhere we look. When you start to notice them you will see them everywhere.

A Brief History of Mandala art

Siddhartha Gautama who is the founder of Buddhism was born in Nepal. We do not know the confirmed date of his birth but historians believe it to be around 560 B.C.

Gautama left his kingdom after becoming aware of human suffering, where he sought to attain enlightenment through meditation and thoughtful action. He started to preach his philosophy across parts of India, where he gained devout followers and eventually established the first sangha, Buddhist community of monks.

These Buddhist monks traveled the Silk Road. Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West. The Buddhist Monks brought Buddhism to other lands.

That Buddhist monks carried mandalas with them and brought the practice of painting these spiritual compositions to other parts of Asia, appearing in regions such as Tibet, China, and Japan by the 4th century.

Being rooted in Buddhism, mandalas soon became present in Hinduism and other religious practices.

Painters of the spiritual craft were often pious laymen, who were commissioned by a patron. They worked seated on the floor with a painting carried in their laps or in front of their crossed legs.

Types of Mandalas

There are numerous types of mandalas found in different cultures and used for many purposes, both artistically and spiritually. Now I will tell you three types of popular Mandalas.

1. Teaching Mandala

It is symbolic, and each shape, line, and color of teaching mandalas represent a different aspect of a philosophical or religious system. The creator creates his or her own mandala based on principles of design and construction, projecting a visual symbolization of everything they have learned. Teaching mandalas work as colorful, mental maps for their creators.

teaching mandala

2. Healing Mandala

This type of mandalas is more intuitive than teaching mandalas. Healing Mandalas are made for the purpose of meditation and intended to deliver wisdom, evoke feelings of calm, and channel focus and concentration.

healing mandala
healing mandala

3. Sand Mandala

Buddhist monks and Navajo cultures used sand mandalas for a long time as a traditional, religious element. These intricate designs use various symbols made from various colored sand which represent the impermanence of human life.

sand mandala
sand mandala

Why mandala is created?

Mandalas are used for a variety of religious traditions, meditation, and modern contexts. The traditional Tibetan mandala which was found in Buddhism depicts the enlightened state of Buddha through sand art. Patterns are created on the ground using metal and a small tube to create the same texture and organization of the grains. Creating this type mandalas can take weeks, and shortly after it’s complete, it is destroyed to align with the Buddhist belief that nothing is permanent.

Personally I love this very much.

As it relates to the modern age, mandalas are used in various ways. In yoga, mandalas represent the same ancient ideas; signifying a sacred space to shut away external influences.

Very often, mandalas are positioned around the studio and sometimes even drawn during meditation periods. In the same way, mandala art is used in healing circles, a practice that derives from Native Americans. The circles are often associated with the restoration of the body, mind, and heart of the human body.

Mandalas have also been found in dream catchers as a means to protect the individual sleeping. It is a popular item in Western cultures, you can easily identify the shape and patterns of a mandala within most dream catchers.

In Asian art, mandalas have since become a popular, meditative element for a variety of different cultures. In Hindu and Buddhist cultures, mandalas and thangkas serve as a representation of the universe and a guide on the path to enlightenment. We are used to seeing the geometric design appear in yoga studios, dream catchers, healing circles, and other meditative practices. The habit of making mandalas is a transformative practice and that is intended to restore inner peace and wisdom within.

Symbolism in Mandalas

Within their complex circle, you can notice common symbols in the whole mandalas. Traditionally, they represent Buddha’s mind in an abstract form, most commonly represented as a wheel, tree, flower, or jewel.

The center point is a dot, that is a symbol of free of dimensions. It is the starting point, the beginning of contemplation, and devotion to the divine. From the center point, the dot is surrounded by lines and geometrical patterns that symbolize the universe, encompassed by the outer circle which represents the cyclical nature of life.

 Some common symbols used in mandala are:

  • Wheel with eight spokes: The circle of a wheel works as an artistic representation of a perfect universe. The eight spokes show the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, a summary of practices that lead to liberation and rebirth.
  • Bell: In mandalas, bells represent the openness and emptying of the mind to allow the entrance of wisdom and clarity.
  • Triangle: When facing upward, triangles represent action and energy, and when facing downward, they show creativity and the pursuit of knowledge.
  • Lotus flower: This is a sacred symbol in Buddhism, the symmetry of a lotus depicts balance. When a lotus grows up from underwater into the light, so too does a human reaching for spiritual awakening and enlightenment.
  • Sun: Sun is a popular basis for modern mandala patterns. It tends to represent the universe, often carrying meanings related to life and energy.

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28 thoughts on “What is Mandala Art?”

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