Some art forms are older than time itself, shifting in meaning and popularity over the centuries. Art has always been an essential aspect of humanity, especially when it is in its healing form. Mandalas, derived from the Sanskrit word “mandala” which means circle, is a popular type of art that originated in Eastern Asia.
Most mandala patterns have circular shapes as a base, followed by designs that originate in the center and then spread out towards the various sectors of the circle. At its core is the fact that mandalas are drawn keeping symmetry and geometry in mind. It is an age-old practice of drawing that is still popular today, despite the various other art forms that have since been born in our country.
The original meaning of what the mandala represents is varied. Some sects of Buddhism say that the mandala represents wisdom and an enlightened mind while others say the drawings symbolize the universe itself. Hinduism, too, used mandalas to depict political hierarchies, shifts in neighboring territories, and even tracing the borders and extents of various empires.
However, while the mandala had many uses, perhaps its most popular one was as an aid to meditation. Visualizing a pattern repeatedly and understanding each and every sector of the circle was said to help bring inner peace. Meditation at the time suggested that the solutions to any obstacles came from within, from one’s own mind. Drawing a mandala often helped those who meditated by bringing their internal states out in the form of art. The saints and practitioners usually drew these patterns in the sand with their fingers, while they meditated.
While the mandala must have originated in East Asia, similar designs have been seen among the Mayans, Aztecs, and Christians as well. The Persians had the most beautiful interpretation, perhaps, they insinuated that every individual originated from God and that they all spread out across the universe like rays of the sun. This philosophy further translated into their artwork, where they drew mandala-like art, with a center representing God and many sectors of varying sizes representing his children. Navajo cultures in Native America, too, adopted the practice of sand mandalas to represent the impermanence of human life.
Whether a mandala is drawn, painted, woven, or arranged with sand, they all have common symbols in them. The most popular are spokes, lotus-shaped or bell-shaped arcs, diamonds, and triangles. The trademark of a mandala is its repeating patterns, occurring either in every section or in every alternating section of the circle. In modern times, some artists have even deviated from the norm and drawn mandalas in many shapes other than circles. Representations of flowers, berries, or leaves in the mandala show a sense of connection with nature and wildlife. The symbolism of mandala is diverse and it can mean many different things to many different people.
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Mandalas also have their origins rooted in psychology. Swiss psychiatrist Carl Jung took a particular interest in the nature of mandalas as he believed they had a strong connection with human personality.
There is some credence to this theory. No two mandalas created from scratch can ever look alike, indicating that each drawing represents the unique internal states of the artists themselves.
Many clinical research studies have shown that drawing mandalas have immense benefits for people of all ages. It has been repeatedly proven to improve sleep and concentration, reduce stress, and ease depression. Drawing and coloring inside mandalas, with practice, also improve artistic ability and builds a strong balance in the mind. The repeated motions used to complete the circle have given rise to several studies in art therapy. Those who are used to drawing mandalas notice a fluidity in their movements and take a focused approach in other areas of their lives as well.
Even if we were to ignore the several benefits that mandalas supposedly provide, art is fun! Drawing a mandala is easy and requires no prerequisite artistic ability to create. It has no age barriers, and anyone can approach it without apprehension. The point of mandalas is not to create a perfect piece, but to complete the piece and make it whole. The shapes are simple, and it is a good hobby for anyone to develop, especially if they would like to learn art but do not have the time.
How to Get Started
All mandala drawings need are a piece of paper, a pen or pencil, and a compass or circular object(s) to draw concentric circles with. There are several beginners’ videos online but the best way to draw a mandala would be to do it yourself. Through exploration and experimentation, you can create unique designs all by yourself and hang them up on your walls. All it takes is an open mind and a fresh imagination. Once you hold the pencil, your mind and body will do the rest for you.