Although its roots stem from the East, mandala art is growing increasingly more popular in Western culture too. It’s not uncommon to see mandala tattoos, coloring books, drawings and even street art. These intricate drawings may appear complicated, but they certainly don’t have to be. In fact, mandalas are defined as any type of art contained within a circle.
Read on to uncover 13 incredible facts about mandalas.
Mandala Fact N1: Roots in Buddhism
While nearly all cultures have adopted a form of the mandala, it was the Buddhists that popularized it. The Tibetan Monks often utilize sacred images in order to enhance their spirituality, and the mandala is the most valued design in their culture.
Mandala Fact N2: It’s all About the Circles
The word mandala literally translates to “circle” in Sanskrit. Each circle in a mandala also holds its own symbolism. The outermost circle represents a ring of fire that prevents impurities from entering. The next circle represents indestructibility and is, appropriately, made of diamonds. Next, is the ring of eight graveyards, each symbolizing the qualities that tie humans to the cycle of reincarnation. Lastly, the innermost circle represents rebirth and is made of lotus leaves.
Mandala Fact N3: Art as Meditation
Anyone who has ever attempted meditation will be able to tell you that it’s not easy. Many find it easier to clear their mind when they’re designing a mandala. It’s easy to get lost in the shapes and colors, which can help you forget about the outside world for a little bit.
Mandala Fact N4: It is Beneficial to Psychological Health
The positive effects of mandala designs have proven to be so helpful, that even licensed psychologists are adopting the practice. Therapists have found several mental health benefits in the practice, such as a reducing one’s heart rate, improving their concentration skills and alleviating stress.
Mandala Fact N5: It Has Important Symbolism
The circles aren’t the only important symbols. Nearly every single aspect of a mandala is meant to represent a greater idea. This includes the corners in the square that surrounds the design as well as the colors that are used. Nothing goes unnoticed.
Mandala Fact N6: It is Not Restricted to a Singular Medium
Mandalas are everywhere if you look hard enough. They can be present in drawings, sculptures, tattoos, carvings, even architecture! If you can put a design on it, then it can house a mandala.
Mandala Fact N7: It Has Intense Creation Process
While we might be able to sit down and sketch out a design on a piece of paper, some people take their mandalas way more seriously. Before a Tibetan monk is even allowed to begin designing, he must endure a brutal three-year period of artistic and psychological study. Once they’re finally allowed to start, the monks team up to tackle one mandala. Typically, there will be four monks working on a single mandala, each assigned to their own quadrant with assistants to help fill in the colors. Talk about a team effort!
Mandala Fact N8: It Has Many Different Types and Variations
The two primary types of mandalas are called Garbha-dhatu and Vajra-dhatu. These translate to “womb world” and “diamond world,” respectively, in Sandskrit. The majority of mandalas are simply variations of these two main types.
Mandala Fact N9: Some Mandalas are Permanent, Some are only Temporary
We’ve discussed that mandalas can appear on nearly any medium. Some of these formats are more permanent, like buildings, while others are merely temporary. Tibetan monks commonly draw their mandalas using colored sand, which can blow away quickly in the wind. Imagine putting all that effort in for such a short lived project.
Mandala Fact N10: Mandalas Have Deeper Sacred Meaning
Hindu and Buddhist teachings tell us that mandalas actually symbolize an ideal universe. Hindu deities are also said to occupy certain areas of the design, with the chief deity residing at the center circle.
Mandala Fact N11: Mandala Colors are Important too
The symbolism behind colors in a mandala stems from Buddhist Color Theory. This theory states that each different color represents a concept of enlightenment. Six main colors exist in mandala design: white, green, yellow, red, blue and black. These colors, aside from black, also represent the Five Buddha Families.
Mandala Fact N12: Mandala Can be Used for Spiritual Journey
The Tibetan monks believed that once a mandala was completed, one could spiritually enter the drawing. While a mandala is meant to be drawn from the center outward, this journey takes place from the outside, with the center of the design as the destination. This is one of the most prominent ways that the monks were able to participate in the Buddha’s teachings.
Mandala Fact N13: Mandalas are Present in Cultures All Over the World
Mandalas may be more prominent in East Asian cultures, but they’re actually present all over the world. I bet you didn’t know that the Aztec calendar is actually a mandala. Yep, the same one that predicted the world would end in 2012. The Celtic tree design is a mandala as well, and so are many stained glass windows and ceilings in Christian architecture.