What is a Mandala?

 Dark Eyes Mandala by Cat Hawkins

Dark Eyes Mandala by Cat Hawkins

I had to abandon the idea of the superordinate position of the ego. ... I saw that everything, all paths I had been following, all steps I had taken, were leading back to a single point -- namely, to the mid-point. It became increasingly plain to me that the mandala is the centre.

It is the exponent of all paths. It is the path to the centre, to individuation....  I knew that in finding the mandala as an expression of the self I had attained what was for me the ultimate.

C. G. Jung. Memories, Dreams, Reflections.

Mandalas, simply, are circular designs (sometimes within a square or rectangle) that create a focus for the mind. They can be used in many ways, but I suppose the most common is as a tool for meditation (as in Tibetan mandalas), and as a creative pursuit that brings healing.

Mandalas can be found in every culture and religion, from Native American medicine wheels, to Christian Rose windows. Carl Jung drew a mandala everyday saying it was the window to his soul.

Crop circles, the world, the universe, star charts, flower heads, water down a plug hole, wheels, the london eye… all mandalas. If you look you see them everywhere. Slice an apple in half, or look down on a tree from above and you have more mandalas. Mandala's are very fractal, and the possibilities are endless.

For me, creating mandalas, whether that be in pencil, paint, or stick and stones, helps me to find the centre again.  Focus and balance.  I dont think I will ever be able to stop!

Sand and Chalk Mandalas

Sand painting (Dry painting) is the art of painting ritual Mandalas for religious or healing ceremonies, out of sand or chalk.

The Native Americans create many mandala sand paintings during their secret healing rituals. These ‘paintings’ remain sacred, and are never photographed. The order and symmetry of the painting symbolize the harmony that the patient wishes to reestablish in his or her life. Sitting on the sand painting helps the patient absorb some of their power, while in turn the Holy People will absorb the illness and take it away. Afterwards, the sand painting has done its duty, and is then considered to be toxic, since the illness is absorbed into it. That is the reason they must be disposed of afterwards. Because of the sacred nature of the ceremonies, the sand paintings are begun, finished, used, and destroyed within a twelve hour period.

The Tibetan Monks create large sand mandalas over a period of time, overlooked by villagers, holy men. The sand is carefully placed on a large, flat table, by pouring the sand from traditional metal funnels called chak-pur.. The mandala sand painting process begins with an opening ceremony, during which Tibetan priests, consecrate the site and call forth the forces of goodness. This is done by means of chanting, music, and mantra recitation.

The destruction of a sand mandala is also highly ceremonial. The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released back into nature. For this reason, the materials in a sand mandala are always biodegradable, and, in keeping with the symbolism are never used twice.


In India, Rangoli is practiced by the women in the home. Rangoli is the art of creating a mandala on the floor outside or inside the home. Traditionally practiced on festival days, or days of special importance, Indian women use an array of different mediums, from coloured flour, spices, grains, or flour paint. Some Rangolis are used to ward off ill luck and invite the forces of prosperity and fortune in to the home. Others proclaimed the favourite form of god of the person making the pattern. What is to be noted is that the Rangoli is a very fragile construct, composed as it is of powders. Rangoli can be drawn on the wall, as well as on the floor.  The term rangoli is derived from words rang (colour) and aavalli ('coloured creepers' or 'row of colours').

I believe that Mandalas can act as a tool for bringing all faiths and religions together, and bring peace to all who accept them into their lives.

The sacred destruction of mandalas may be done in many ways. Some sand/chalk mandalas are placed on pavements. The mandala is exposed to the elements in a high traffic public space. In the instance of street mandalas, the making and the destruction is also a sacred process. The destruction is partially completed by people who pass by and unknowingly step on the mandala without seeing it. Some people will help it along by scuffing the mandala. The rain, wind and snow will finish the work till not a trace of sand remains. A natural process.