Tibetan Sand Mandala

Sand Mandalas, also known as Tibetan sand painting is an ancient Tibetan art form. It is a Tibetan Buddhist tradition in which sand mandalas are created from colored sand and then ritually destroyed by performing a ceremony. These mandalas have many themes and portray many deities. Creating a sand manadala is a very specific, meticulous task involving many steps requiring deep dedication and patience.

Creating a sand mandala is carried out in the following order:

  • Conducting the Opening Ceremony
  • Drawing the Lines (Creating a Blueprint if you will, of the Sand Mandala)
  • Constructing the Mandala itself
  • Completing the Mandala
  • Closing Ceremony - Ritually Destroying the Mandala

1. Opening Ceremony

Once a specific site is located for the construction of the mandala, a series of chants, music and mantra recitation takes place. This usually takes about 30 minutes and it is quite impressive to witness.

Aside from the above, there are specific materials required as well for the openign ceremony. Such as:

  • The Base for the Mandala
  • 5ft square plywood atleast 1 inch thick and painted dark blue.
  • An Altar. This is usually a standard height table. It has to be a minimum of 3 feet long.
  • 2 bouquets of flowers
  • A pitcher of water
  • 7 Peices of fruit, usually apples or oranges or both.
  • 1 Pound of uncooked rice
  • 9 pillows and 1 comfortable chair

sand mandala opening ceremony


2. Drawing the Lines

Once the opening ceremony is completed, the monks begin to start designing the mandala. This is very meticulous work and takes roughly 3 hours to complete. Once this is completed, you are able to see a virtual "blueprint" of where the colored grains of sand are going to be placed.

sand mandala lines blueprint


3. Constructing The Sand Mandala

Using special traditional metal funnels (also known as chak-pur, the monks will pour the colored grains of sand onto the base. This portion of the sand mandala construction can take up to 5 days to complete. This is extremely meticulous work and requires a strong mental focus, patience and careful attention to detail.

sand mandala construction


4. Completing the Mandala

Once the manda is created, it is concluded with its concecration. It is not uncommon to have several thousand guests attend a closing ceremony.

The level of detail of a fully constructed sand mandala can be a little overwhelming.

completed sanda mandala

Here is a closeup of another one. What ads to the beauty is that it is somewhat 3 dimensional as colored sand is carefully placed atop a previous layer of sand, adding to the complexity and beauty of the design.

sand mandala close up


5. Closing Ceremony - Destroying the Mandala

There is a certain way the mandala is destroyed. A ritual is performed and sometimes a portion of the sand is given away to observers of the ceremony as blessings of health and healing.

sand mandala destruction