Mandala of Chakrasamvara
- 14th-15th century
- Pigments on cloth
- Catalog Number
- C2006.66.138 (HAR 97)
- Rubin Museum of Art
- Gift of Shelley and Donald Rubin
Mandalas are pictorial representations of the abodes of deities and the Buddhist conception of the cosmos. They are widely used visual tools and serve as a guide for complex Tantric Buddhist practices, such as visualization meditation. As a rule, a mandala is a symmetrical diagram oriented around a center, usually built up of concentric circles and squares and expressed in the architectural framework of a palace. Mandalas may also serve as ritual objects and protective talismans. As seen in the adjacent video, a practitioner during the visualization practice imagines entering the mandala in their mind, with the deity at the center of this space.
The video below provides a 3D tour of a mandala.
Ritual informs the structure of religious life in the Himalayas, defining the daily routine of practitioners and shaping a range of community-based activities.
In Himalayan cultures religious merit is the overarching reason for creating, commissioning, dedicating, and using religious works of art.
Religious rituals and the commissioning of art can serve everyday secular needs, the most common being wealth, health, and long life.
Many Himalayan paintings serve as illustrations and instructional tools that bring forth stories about the Buddha, Tibetan masters, and more.
Instructive paintings can illustrate religious doctrines, medical and astrological charts, or images of ritual implements and meditative postures.