Mandalas – The History & Meaning

The word mandala is a Sanskrit term that means “circle” or “discoid object”. A mandala can be defined to or referred to in two separate ways: externally as a visual representation of the universe and internally as a guide for asian traditional meditation.

When the mandala first came about they were and still are objects of devotion in buddhism. They can be painted or drawn onto paper, stone, wood, cloth and walls. In buddhism the role of a mandala is so powerful that whole temples could be built entirely of a mandala and act as the whole architectural structure. Mandala patterns are based of a  variety of different geometric imagery using patterns that have evolved from different symbols.


It is thought that Mandalas across the world are used to represent worship and awe of nature’s cycles and mysteries of life and death. It incorporates the alternation of day and night, the changes in the moon and the rhythms of seasons.

“Everything the Power of the World does is done in a circle. The sky is round, and I have heard that the earth is round like a ball, and so are all the stars. The wind, in its greatest power, whirls. Birds make their nests in circles, for theirs is the same religion as ours. The sun comes forth and goes down again in a circle. The moon does the same, and both are round. Even the seasons form a great circle in their changing, and always come back again to where they were. The life of a man is a circle from childhood to childhood, and so it is in everything where power moves” (cited in Neihardt, 1961:32-33).


After researching into these mandalas I have realised that these works of art are found amongst the most ancient art forms created by by humans. Rock carvings found all over the world incorporate the circular form and it’s variations making it probably the most diverse art form in the world. After finding all this information I have realised that this is definitely what I want to include in my final major project as it is such an important element to the art world and it’s progression and because the FMP is all about progression I couldn’t think of anything more fitting and almost symbolic to my idea.



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