The History of Mandala

The History of Mandala

The mandala is one of humankind's most ancient art forms. With the circle as its basis, it reflects eternity and all of nature: the sun, the moon and even the bird's nest. Types of mandalas may be found in all religions, as well as in psychology.

1 History

Mandalas are present in many civilizations.
... Aleksandra Alekseeva/iStock/Getty Images

The word "mandala" is Sanskrit for "circle." According to mandala artist Charles Gilchrist, creator of "Sacred Geometry," a wandering guru may have brought the first meditation mandalas to Tibet in about the eighth century. Mandalas have been found across the Far East, and Native Americans symbolism is based on the "sacred hoop." Mandalas are considered to be of Eastern origin, but it would be difficult, if not impossible, to find any civilization without some awareness of the circle's symbolism and potential for spiritual self-examination.

2 Significance

Notre Dame
... Joris Van Ostaeyen/iStock/Getty Images

The circle is the most natural form known to mankind. The universe is made up of planets, stars, moons and the sun---all spherical in shape. The sun rises and sets in a never-ending circle; seasons pass in an annual circle. Trees, rocks and raindrops are circular, and most fruits and flowers are spherical. The cells and atoms that make up everything within the universe are circular.

3 Religious Symbolism

Buddhist monks making a sand mandala.
... Scott Olson/Getty Images News/Getty Images

Mandalas have been used by Buddhists, Hindus, Tibetans and Native Americans in prayer, meditation and for healing. Buddhists make mandala sand paintings that are destroyed after they have served their purpose. Many Christian religions use the mandala without even realizing it. For example, Gothic cathedral rose windows, with their intricate designs, are clearly mandalas.

4 Psychology

Children respond to circles.
... Jupiterimages/Goodshoot/Getty Images

Today, mandalas are often used in therapy to represent the "wholeness" of the patient. Babies as young as 1 week old prefer to look at circles over other shapes, which indicates that humans have an inborn desire to look at circular shapes. When children learn to draw, the circle is the first shape they make after random scribbling. As adults, drawing a circle helps us reconnect with our childhood. Making a mandala can help people regain their sense of self and recognize their place in the world.

5 Mandala Art

Natural fractal designs are present in mandalas.
... Marina_Po/iStock/Getty Images

The mandala as art form continues today as well. The kaleidoscope is one of the simplest ways to experience mandala art. Some artists use recycled records and compact discs to form the basis of their mandalas, while others use clay, canvas, dinner plates or even fabric. Fractal designs, with their self-replication and basis in geometry, are sometimes used to create mandala art as well.

Chris Carson has been writing professionally since 1988, specializing in topics such as cats, jewelry, history and English. Her articles have appeared in "Best Friends Magazine" and on various websites. Carson received her Bachelor of Arts in English from Arizona State University.