• Mandala Art: A mandala (Sanskrit: मण्डल,) is a geometric configuration of symbols. 
  • In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction.
  • In the Eastern religions of Hinduism, BuddhismJainism and Shinto it is used as a map representing deities, or especially in the case of Shinto, paradises, kami or actual shrines. 
  • A mandala generally represents the spiritual journey, starting from outside to the inner core, through layers.
  • In Hinduism, a basic mandala, also called a yantra, takes the form of a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the general shape of a T. Mandalas often have radial balance.
  • Origin 
    • It is believed to be rooted in Buddhism, appearing in the first century BC in India. 
    • Over the next couple centuries, Buddhist missionaries travelling along the silk road took it to other regions. 
    • By the sixth century, mandalas have been recorded in China, Korea, Japan, Indonesia and Tibet. In Hinduism, the mandala imagery first appeared in Rig Veda (1500 – 500 BCE).
  • Elements 
    • There are various elements incorporated within the mandala, each of which has its own meaning. 
    • For instance, the eight spokes of the wheel (the dharmachakra) represent the eightfold path of Buddhism (practices that lead to liberation from rebirth), the lotus flower depicts balance, and the sun represents the universe
    • Facing up, triangles represent action and energy, and facing down, they represent creativity and knowledge.
Residents of Liverpool are marvelling over a mandala the size of one and a half football pitches in length created by artist James Brunt with materials such as leaves and rocks
Thangka painting of Manjuvajra mandala

Mandala in modern Indian art

  • Deep-rooted in ancient philosophy, the mandala has attained varied forms in the hands of modern and contemporary Indian artists. 
  • While it continues to appear in thangka paintings, it has a central place in the practice of mainstream artists associated with the tantric and neo-tantric spiritual movements. 
  • In 1960s Sohan Qadri and Prafulla Mohanty gained widespread recognition for their works that were imbibed with tantric symbolism, such as mandalas that are also used in the rituals of tantric initiation.
  • Geometric compositions also dominated works of artists such as Biren De, GR Santosh, Shobha Broota, and famously SH Raza, who visualised the Bindu as the centre of his universe and the source of energy and life.
Tantric mandala of Vajrayogini

Mandala-like designs in other religions

  • Mesoamerican civilizations– The Maya civilization tended to present calendars in a form similar to a mandala. It is similar in form and function to the Kalachakra (Wheel of Time) sand paintings of Tibetan Buddhists.
  • In Christianity- The Cosmati pavements, including that at Westminster Abbey, are geometric supposedly mandala-like mosaic designs from thirteenth century Italy. 

Uses of Mandala Art

  • In ArchitectureBuddhist architecture often applied mandala as the blueprint or plan to design Buddhist structures, including temple complex and stupas.
  • In science– Circular diagrams are often used in phylogenetics, especially for the graphical representation of phylogenetic relationships. Evolutionary trees often encompass numerous species that are conveniently shown on a circular tree, with images of the species shown on the periphery of a tree. Such diagrams have been called phylogenetic mandalas
  • In Art– Mandala as an art form first appeared in Buddhist art that were produced in India during the first century B.C.E. These can also be seen in Rangoli designs in Indian households.
  • In Archaeology– One of the most intense archaeological discoveries in recent years that could redefine the history of eastern thought and tradition of mandala is the discovery of five giant mandalas in the valley of Manipur, India, made with Google Earth imagery. Located in the paddy field in the west of Imphal, the capital of Manipur, the Maklang geoglyph is perhaps the world’s largest mandala built entirely of mud.
  • In politics– The Rajamandala (or Raja-mandala; circle of states) was formulated by the Indian author Kautilya in his work on politics, the Arthashastra. It describes circles of friendly and enemy states surrounding the king’s state.
  • In contemporary use– Fashion designer Mandali Mendrilla designed an interactive art installation called Mandala of Desires (Blue Lotus Wish Tree) made in peace silk and eco friendly textile ink, displayed at the China Art Museum in Shanghai in November 2015. The pattern of the dress was based on the Goloka Yantra mandala, shaped as a lotus with eight petals.
Boudhanath stupa resembles a mandala
Boudhanath stupa resembles a mandala

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