A Study

By far, Hinduism is the only organized religion on the globe that offeres a believer (and nobelievers!) so many ways to access God, or our Source. An obvious way this happens is in the artistic forms of the murtis through which we worship. For those who are prone either to make excessive noise, or interestingly make no noise, japa mantra is an option. This involves recognizing the Source through means of a divine Name and employing Rememberance as we repeat the Name.

Another interesting and abstract way in which Hindus reach within to God is the use of a mandala. For lack of better words, a mandala is sacred geometry. Just like a holy Name, it’s a means of recognizing a way of connecting within. Many cultures and religions employ the concept of a mandala. In Hinduism, the shape of teh mandala as well as what it’s made from or inscribed upon all play a role in the efficacy or “power” of the mandala. Aside from anh hand-drawn manadalas, most of the ones I own are inscribed with red “ink” on gold-plated copper plates.

A recent post by Ek Akshara, from whom I’ve shared before in the recent past, pertained to mandalas. I thought to bring that info here as well.

1.1. What is a maNDala?

The mandala, Hindu in origin, is a graphic depiction of the spiritual universe and its myriad realms and deities much later, first in Tibet [Wylie: dkyil ‘khor or dkyil-vkhor] and China [Màntúluó] then Japan and Korea [Mandara]. The mandala was adopted as a powerful religious icon among practitioners. मण्डल is a Sanskrit term which simply translates to the circle. During the rites, the deity is invoked in the mandala via the mantras. In India mandalas are also on the level of folk art, known as rangoli, alpana, kolam, which was basically influenced by Yantra and mandala.

Unlike maNDala, a Yantra is kept under the deity that is been installed in the temple. Sriyantra is installed in Sringeri. In Nepal it decorates the roof of the temple. Many texts use maNDala and Yantra as synonyms even sometimes words like pitha is used in synonymous to maNDala

1.2. Mandala’s can be broadly divided into two categories – 1] mandala for initiation 2] mandala for siddhi. There are various types of mandala and many scholars tried their best to interpret the inner significance of the mandala. There is the limited surface mandala which is used as pitha for the divine. There is the rajomandala which is nothing but a temporary mandala using powders. Then comes the vastupurusha mandala – a mandala employed in construction and buildings. Ancient temples used the vastupurusha mandala in the construction plans. Varahamihira Brihat Samitha contains a detailed account of vastupurusha mandala which dates back to 6th century.

1.3. The designs employed in the mandala are again varied. The common ones are the Lotus design. The lotus is symbolic of water and can either have one ring of petal or several rings of petals. Normally an asthadala padma and are found in various diagrams, on thresholds of houses and so on. Then there is another nine-petaled lotus arranged in a group of three. There is the grid form of the mandala known as the bhadramandala used in the smarta rituals.

1.4. Ganesapurvatapaniya Upanishad gives an account of the yantra of Ganesha. He sits on the Astadala Padma. The yantras innermost Asthadala is considered to be astabeeja gayatri. The 12 petals adjacent round is the 12 adityas and vowels. Then comes the 16 petals, Purusha which is synonymous to the kala [ 16 parts] and consonants.

1.5. Vishnu Samhita equates a lotus mandala with the heart of the deity and the five colors used in the mandala with the five elements.

Om Shri Mahaganeshaya Namaha
Om Shanti

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