Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions

Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions

Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions

Mandalas and Yantras in the Hindu Traditions

Synopsis

In recent years man d alas have attracted much interest among a wider public. The main focus of such interest has been directed toward Tibetan man d alas, specimens of which have been included in numerous publications. But man d alas are found across a wide spectrum of South Asian religious traditions, including those of the Hindus and Jains. Hindu man d alas and yantras have hardly been researched. This book attempts to fill this gap by clarifying important aspects of man d alas and yantras in specific Hindu traditions through investigations by renowned specialists in the field. Its chapters explore man d alas and yantras in the Sm rta, P ñcar tra, aiva and kta traditions. An essay on the v stupuru aman d ala and its relationship to architecture is also included. With 13 colour plates.

Excerpt

Gudrun Bühnemann

General Remarks

In recent years mandates have attracted much interest among a wider public. The main focus of such interest has been directed toward Tibetan maṇḍalas, specimens of which have been included in numerous publications. But maṇḍalas are found across a wide spectrum of South Asian religious traditions, including those of the Hindus and Jains. Maṇḍalas are also part of East Asian Buddhist traditions.

In South Asia, maṇḍalas have been used mainly in occasional rites of worship. In these rites deities are invoked into maṇḍalas with the aid of mantras. The construction of a maṇḍala is specially important in Tantric initiation (dīkṣā) rites. In esoteric teaching, a maṇḍala may be visualized as present in the practitioner’s body by correlating the cosmic symbolism of the maṇḍala with the practitioner’s body parts. Maṇḍala patterns have had other far-reaching influences. They have, for example, had an impact on ancient town-planning. The use of maṇḍalas is also documented in alchemy.

The South Asian tradition of preparing and worshipping maṇḍalas and yantras continues up to the present. On the level of folk art the kohbar maṇḍalas, which decorate the walls of the nuptial chamber in the Mithilā region of north Bihar (India) and Nepal, are a good example of this. So are the auspicious floor designs prepared with rice flour or coloured powders and regionally known as rāṅgoḷī, ālpanā, muggulu or kolam, which have been influenced by maṇḍala and yantra patterns.

Yantras have been employed especially in rites of magic. Their use has been recommended in astrology and, to some extent, in Āyur-Veda. The yantra of a deity is customarily placed under the deity’s statue at the time of its installation in a temple. Patterns of

For a detailed examination of the use of mantras, yantras and maṇḍalas in ĀyurVeda and in alchemy, see Roşu 1986a and 1986b.

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