History of Mandala art


If you have come across a painting which is circular and complex in design, most likely it is a Mandala art. It is one of the most ancient art forms created by human beings, primarily having religious symbols, geometric patterns and many other layers of meaning to it. ‘Mandala’ is a Sanskrit term which means a circle.

Different types of mandalas have been found in almost all the religions as well as psychology; among them, Hinduism and Buddhism have the mandala paintings in a majority. Some mandala paintings have been discovered in the Tibetan sketches and writings which date back to the 8th and 9th centuries and in the murals and cloth paintings of religious sanctuaries of the 11th and 12th centuries. Thus, the origin of mandalas is south or south-east Asian.

It was not difficult to get inspiration for drawing mandalas. Nature itself is the biggest inspiration. The concentric circles of mandalas find a resemblance to everything around us if you carefully notice. Right from the cellular structure which has the nucleus at the centre and electrons revolving around it, to the flowers, to the shape of our Earth, stars, solar system and ultimately our universe. Mandalas can signify anything and everything.

In the previous times, the mandalas were primarily made for spiritual purposes, i.e. in meditation, prayers, and healing. These circular drawings represent the ideal form of the Universe in Buddhism. Around 2000 to 2500 years ago, the Buddhist monks travelled via the Silk Road and shared these works of art, these circular drawings to other parts of Asia.

The earliest evidence of such mandala art has been found from the 1st century BC, and then it has also appeared from other countries like China, Tibet, and Japan by the 4th century AD. People began their religious rituals beginning with circles. The five thousand years old man-made sacred mountains called ‘Ziggurats’ were based on concentric circles.

The mandala paintings have a highly rich and meaningful past, the tradition which still continues even today. These wonderful paintings are proving out to be therapeutically beneficial to those who draw them.