The art of impermanence - Tibetan sand mandalas


WindhorseTour Travel Team's picture

While trekking Tibet, have you ever come across Tibetan Buddhist monks painstakingly crafting gorgeous sand mandalas, often over the course of hours or even days, only to wipe them away once the beautiful mosaic has been completed? In addition to the significance Tibetans attribute to these consecrated illustrations, the sand used to compose these intricate images is also believed to have magic healing power! It is just such acts of devotion and mysteries of religion that continue to entice intrepid travelers to Tibet over and over again!

Travel in Tibet can be a baptism of Tibetan arts and aethestics, and the unique sand mandalas rank as one of the most unique and exquisite examples from all the artistic traditions in Tibet. 'Mandala' is a Sanskrit word simply meaning "circle," and mandalas are depictions of the Tibetan Buddhist concept of total reality. The basic form of a mandala is a circle encompassing a square with four gates, and finally a medial circle acting as a hub for the whole depiction, each element bearing spiritual and ritual significance.

Due to the religious significance of mandalas, drawing mandalas is a sacred process which normally begins with an opening ceremony to call forth the forces of different gods by chanting mantras. The monks will then begin the work by drawing an outline of the mandala on a wooden platform. Over the following days, millions of grains of colored sand are meticulously poured into place over the outline by monks using a delicate metal funnel. Some Tibetan sand mandalas are so intricate that they can take weeks to complete!

Normally, sand mandalas are swept away and destroyed shortly after their completion as a metaphor for the Tibetan view of the impermanence of life. The sand is swept up and placed into an urn, to show healing and renewal, and then carried to a body of water. It is said that the waters then carry the healing blessing of the sand all the way to the ocean to spread throughout the world planetary healing.

A tour of Tibet will reveal many such intriguing aspects of Tibetan life and culture, some of which could be anticipated - such at the ubiquitous 8 auspicious symbols of Tibetan Buddhism, while others are completely surprising - like the venerable catholic church in eastern Tibet! Together, they all display the scope of Tibet's rich artistic culture. Book your own Tibet travel and see firsthand the sacred ceremony of the sand mandalas, and have your own pinch of healing sand!

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