The Colorful Art Of Sand Mandalas

The Colorful Art Of Sand Mandalas

The Sand Mandala is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition which symbolizes the transitory nature of things. As part of Buddhist canon, all things material are seen as transitory. A sand mandala is an example of this, being that once it has been built and its accompanying ceremonies and viewing are finished, it is systematically destroyed.


Historically, the mandala was not created with natural, dyed sand, but granules of crushed colored stone. In modern times, plain white stones are ground down and dyed with opaque inks to achieve the same effect. Before laying down the sand, the monks assigned to the project will draw the geometric measurements associated with the mandala.


The sand granules are then applied using small tubes, funnels, and scrapers, until the desired pattern over-top is achieved.


Sand mandalas traditionally take several weeks to build, due to the large amount of work involved in laying down the sand in such intricate detail. It is common that a team of monks will work together on the project, creating one section of the diagram at a time, usually working from the center outwards.


The Kalachakra Mandala for instance, contains 722 deities portrayed within the complex structure and geometry of the mandala itself.


Other smaller mandalas, like the one attributed to Vajrabhairava contain sufficiently fewer deities and require less geometry, but still take several days to complete. Like all mandalas, these are meant as two-dimensional representations of what is supposed to be a three-dimensional environment. There is one particular case where a three-dimensional mandala can be experienced: Borobodur in Java, Indonesia.

Monks Creating a Sand Mandala

The destruction of a sand mandala is also highly ceremonial. Even the deity syllables are removed in a specific order, along with the rest of the geometry until at last the mandala has been dismantled. The sand is collected in a jar which is then wrapped in silk and transported to a river (or any place with moving water), where it is released back into nature. For this reason, the materials keeping with the symbolism are never used twice.


More Colorful Sand Art

While not literally colorful, she works in black and white, the incredible sand animations by Ilana Yahav are certainly something to see.

Ilana draws on sand, using only her fingers. As she weaves together sand, lighting and music, Ilana creates incredible three dimensional vistas they play out in perfect time with the musical accompaniment, Indeed, it is difficult to decide if the music accompanies the work of art, or vice versa Ilana's fingers dance in the sand on the glass to the music, the resulting aesthetic dynamic is powerful and moving.

More Sand Mandalas









k gifford


Text quoted from Wikipedia: Sand Mandalas

Other links: Buddhist Art and Ritual from Nepal and Tibet, Mandalas,

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Showing 1 - 10 of 10 Comments
One of my favourite movies is Kundun by Martin Scorsese, and each time I watch it I almost cry when they make, brush away and finally scatter to the river the sand mandala. Philip Glass' music is playing and we hear Kunduns voiceover saying that a time will come when everything will become nothing. It's such an emotional movie.

These colours are so wonderful.
Wow. Just, wow. It's amazing to see how attention is paid to every grain of sand. Great post, thanks!
Neropatti, funny you should mention that wonderful film as it's exactly what inspired me to put this post together!
wow. beautiful! :D
for those of you who want to see a real one that hasn't been destroyed, go to the University of Dayton, and in the library, on the second floor i think, is a sand mandala they didn't take apart. i don't know what they did to keep it from getting blown away, but it's freaking beautiful. some of it's a bit messed up, but that's understandable - i think it's been there for 10+ years. which is kind of funny, because that's a catholic school. but every time i went up there i had to stop and look at it for at least ten seconds because it was just so breathtaking. sure, it's kind of in a corner, but it's in the corner where the staircases and elevators meet! this kind of work makes you think.

and doesn't miss yahav have a commercial now? for like amex or something?
What a beautiful culture!
Smithsonian Magazine a couple of months ago had a JAR with a portrait of George Washington done in the side in sand .... took somebody several months (years?) .... naturally they don't move it much, and some of his other works were messed up...

was wondering what kind of DYES the Tibetans used to get the bright colors
this is more than perfect!
wonderful pictures! thanks for such a useful post!
I was able to share this with a colleague who put it to good use showing her class just how much work and detail went into these before they are dismantled!
I actually found a Nelson Mandela Mandala...

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