• Culture & Tradition
  • 18 March, 2021

Understanding the Mandala Tradition in Nepal

Understanding the Mandala Tradition in Nepal
Image by jacqueline macou from Pixabay

Mandalas in many forms are very popular in Nepal, and you can see them for sale in many shops. But, the mandala shouldn’t only be seen as a standalone work of art. Here are a few important things to know about mandalas, and how you can benefit from their many properties and hidden secrets.

Symbolism and philosophy

As a spiritual and ritual symbol in Hinduism and Buddhism, the mandala represents different aspects of the universe, the principle of life, and the essence of the world. It is made from two words: manda, meaning principle, and la, meaning water flowing between those principles. It is a way to remind us of the virtue of life and the importance of staying true to yourself.

The mandala is based on the formula of the five elements of life: earth, water, air, fire, and space, all of which correspond to the five senses of all living beings. It also means that everything in this world is interlinked and exists only because of the presence of the other.

Types of mandala

As a sacred diagram, mandalas can represent deities, symbols, and prayers, along with geometric figures and decorations. In several Asian religions (Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism, and Shintoism), mandalas are used in the performance of sacred rites, and can represent deities or even shrines.

Mandalas are usually circular, and the word in Sanskrit means circle. The circular design symbolizes the idea that life is never ending, and everything is connected, even though sometimes it may be difficult to be aware of this.

But, mandalas can be found in other shapes, too, such as a square, rectangle, triangle, or semi-circle. In the 13th century, the Kathmandu Valley was considered a mandala because of its form surrounded by eight bodhisattvas, representing the Eightfold Path of Buddhism, the practices leading to liberation and rebirth.

Understanding the Mandala Tradition in Nepal
Image by Martina Bulková from Pixabay

How mandalas are made, and why

Nepalis use water (symbolizing refreshment), yellow tika powder (meaning the sun’s equity and open-mindedness), or red tika powder (representing consciousness), then rice, cereals, legumes, and flowers (symbolizing all living beings).

In Newari culture, making mandalas is a ritual passed down through generations. There are different mandalas for certain festivals and rituals (birth, death). On the other hand, Tibetans use mandalas only on special occasions, and only high priests and practitioners can make them.

Mandalas are typically drawn on canvases, paper, or cloth using pigments, or they can be drawn on a surface with threads, made in bronze, or built in stone. One of the most well-known types of mandala is the sand mandala (dupchhoe), made with colored sand and powders in Tibetan monasteries. After the mandala creating ceremony is completed, the mandala is destroyed, signifying the impermanence of reality and the fact that nothing is permanent.

Mandalas today

As a geometric configuration of symbols, mandalas can be used for focusing practitioners’ attention, as a spiritual guidance tool, or as an instrument of meditation and trance induction. Mandalas are a widely used visual aid for concentration and meditation practice.

Mandala art is considered one of the most effective forms of healing and therapeutic art, as focusing on the drawing itself or colouring the mandala can be used in the healing process. Drawing mandalas can reduce anxiety, tension, and stress. It also stimulates creativity and helps to release emotional blockages.

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