Updated: Apr 10, 2019
Isn't it mystical when you stumble upon the a phenomenon that has utmost impact on your thought process ?
While photographing the Lamayaru monastery- uncanny yet fateful , an old lady walked up to me and said ' don't you want to go into the prayer room inside'? With no idea what I was about to witness, I walked in to this prayer room only to be feel fortunate and blessed to be able to witness the making of the divine Sand Mandalas.
In the prayer room sat the monks who did not talk, no communication at all, but graciously permitted me to photograph the most painstakingly beautiful, detailed and intricate work of these Sand Mandalas.
All the while inside this room, I had to maintain a delicate balance, ensuring that none of my movement, nor my exhilaration disturb their concentration of forming these sand patterns. I maneuvered myself and my equipment around them.
The monks take multi colored sand and form divine patterns one grain at a time , painstakingly, patiently with utmost concentration . And then over many weeks or months of this work , the Sand Mandalas come into shape.
The sand mandalas are mystical , signifying the enlightened mind . Formed with intricate geometric patterns that take weeks to take final shape . These sand mandalas or sacred cosmograms connote universe and Buddhism philosophies. Every mandala is different yet each has a lesson behind them. The mandalas represent house of the deity and have a ceremonious beginning in a special prayer hall. This is where I stood witnessing Buddha in the background and the shaping of divine Mandalas in the foreground.
The designs usually start with a dot in between - working outwards and surrounded by 4 squares or 4 gates . Each of these gates represents a direction and has a Buddha in a different Mudra. Outside are concentric circles that also have meanings such as enlightenment and an end to ignorance, the buddhism philosophies serving as a backbone to each grain of sand and every pattern on the Mandala.
Such intense concentration is required from the drawing to the final outcome of these Mandalas , that the monks cover their faces lest any disturbance effect the intricate symbolic patterns. I walked around carefully, trying to maintain the sheet of silence that enveloped this place , gently capturing the process. No questions , no answers only observing the process. The Mandalas require the interplay of vivid colors of sand and ancient symbols. Some monks are specially trained for this work , their precision and concentration is sterling.
When the Sand mandala is finally finished and this divine geometry of the heavens comes to life, the monks pray over it — and then they destroy it. They sweep it up, every last grain of sand and give handfuls of it away to those who participate in the closing ceremony as a final memory of sublime possibility. Then they throw the rest of the sand into the nearest living stream or water body , to be swept into the ocean to bless the whole world. In an instant, all those months of work , after all that artistry- it’s over.
The philosophy behind destruction of the Mandalas is – Nothing is permanent . NOTHING!
My journey of photographing the Sand Mandalas in Lamayaru monastery was so inspirational that I then traveled to Sputik and Phyang monasteries to capture the sand Mandalas. The Mandalas on this page are from all three places
As Narrated by Navtej Singh
View our main section of photographs here