Mandala drawing in ink on paper by Rajbir Citrakar (fl. 1820–1844), copied from a painting on cloth.
What is a mandala?
A mandala, literally meaning ‘circle’, is a circular diagram that represents the entire idealised universe of a deity together with their entourage, palace and surroundings.
Mandalas can be created from coloured sand, painted on cloth or on temple ceilings or walls. They can be fashioned from textiles, metal, stone, or wood, and, sometimes, coloured threads. Mandalas play an important role in the teachings of Vajrayana Buddhism.
The Tibetan term for mandala (dkyil 'khor) literally translates as ‘centre and circumference’. The 'centre' refers to the deity inhabiting a palace and the 'circumference' means the palace and entire universe surrounding the deity. In the mandala displayed here the central figure is Manjushri, the bodhisattva of supreme wisdom. He is holding the sword of wisdom and a book. A second pair of hands shows the mudra (hand posture) of teaching known as the dharmachakra mudra.
What do we know about this mandala?
The drawing was made by the Nepalese artist Rajbir Citrakar (fl. 1820–1844) for the British pioneer naturalist and scholar Brian Houghton Hodgson (1801?–23 May 1894) while he was the British Representative in Nepal. The artist based his drawing on an existing painting, he also attached numbers to the various figures in the mandala and provided a key identifying the names of the deities on the left hand side of the drawing.
- Article by:
- Sarah Shaw
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There are many kinds of Buddhist meditations; here Dr Sarah Shaw describes the ‘middle way’ of the Buddha and explores key aspects of Buddhist meditation and chant, such as the use of Buddha-images and visualisation.