October 18, 2013 § Leave a comment

What is a mandala, and what does it mean?

A mandala is a spiritual and ritual symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism, they are a symbolic image of the universe. Mandala roughly translates to “circle” in the classical Indian language, Sanskrit, and the Tibetan word for mandala literally means “that which encircles a center.” The primordial shape symbolises qualities such as divinity, wholeness, unity and perfection, being a prevalent symbol in most cultures around the globe. Its special message is said to speak, bringing serenity, clarity, and peace to a busy mind. The purpose of a mandala is to help transform ordinary minds into enlightened ones, this assists with healing.

Cultural context

Mandalas have been used to record historical events, and in many native cultures have told the story of the connection humans have to the cosmos. Sacred geometry and symbols have been used in decorative depictions of sacred rituals and ceremonies, grasping the spirit of a certain group of ‘people’, ways of living and being. Mandalas are usually associated with Buddhism and Hinduism of which are heavily associated with them, but is also prevalent in Christianity, where in the 12th century a nun created mandalas to express her visions and beliefs. Native American Indians have created sand mandalas and medicine wheels, the circular Aztec calendar is a form of mandala, which was both a timekeeping device as well as a religious expression of ancients Aztecs. Tibetan monks travel the world visiting many different cultures where they inform others about their culture of Tibet in the creation of sand mandalas.


The traditional creation of a mandala is extremely meaningful, designed by masters who produce them following tradition passed from generation to generation, with the colour and form being carefully considered. The depths and colours of a mandala are what make them unique and each one significant.

The colours used in a mandala are very important, the colours them selves have meaning, often relating to “chakras” which are the energy centers in our body. The base colours used contain messages, coming in various shades and combinations. Here are some meanings for the different colors:

  • Red is an energy color for life and healing evoking fire and deep burning emotions.  It speaks of action.
  • Orange colors show the most warmth, intensity and fire.  A prideful color, it adds self awareness.
  • Yellow almost obviously is the color of light, warmth and the sun. As such, it is a source of light.
  • Green color in countless shades are part of nature and represent health, growth and renewal. Green also relates to the heart chakra along with pink.
  • Blue expresses unfailing love, serenity and relaxation.  It is a calming color full of compassion and depth. Turquoise blue represents truth, articulation and communication relating to the throat chakra.
  • With purple we have a color of life, vivid in intensity, it represents royalty and authority as well as intuition.
  • White while not technically a color, is a symbol of light, innocence and purity.  It adds clarity to the spiritual experience, and represents divinity.

Shape: shape is just as important as colour in the mandala also containing meaning, popular shapes often used include circles, squares, spirals, triangles and flowers, often in various configurations. Here are the meanings of these shapes:

  • Circles convey the infinite, wholeness, totality, unity, divinity, perfection, eternity/timelessness, spacelessness (no beginning/end or above/below), simultaneity, Unmanifest (the essential, primary aspect of the Absolute Reality.), the heavens, God or source; the creator, and the eternal ‘now’ – this moment in time, the only moment, as every moment is different always. This shape also symbolises dynamism, completion and fulfillment, cyclic motion, recurrence and endless motion.
  • Spirals represent growth and learning, they bring a different perspective and represent change.
    Triangles are uniquely associated with dreams, goals and vision. This shape represents the threefold nature of the universe – heaven, earth, man, mother, father, child, the human as body – mind, spirit and the mystical energy of the three – dynamic action. The Equilateral Triangle symbolises completion, and the trinity in unity.
  • Squares are solid and stable, representing security and a foundation of ideas, the square conveys the building process. The square often represents Earth, Earthly existence, integration. God manifest in creation, static perfection, and immutability. Other denotations of this shape include morality, straightforewardness, honesty, limitation, form and order and the four elements – earth, fire, water and air.
  • Flowers generally convey our consciousness, depending on the flower however symbolises different qualities like friendship, love, purity, kindness, perseverance and wisdom, amongst others.

This link contains a list of all the variations of shapes and colours, and their meanings.


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