More Than Simple Arts and Crafts: The History of Mandalas

Posted by Burhaan Pattel on

As you enter bookstores and see Mandala coloring books on display, do you wonder where the Mandala designs have originated? What is the history of Mandalas and what makes them so popular today?

Mandalas are famous and known to most people nowadays as the intricately designed round patterns often seen in most adult coloring books. These designs can also be found on artworks, clothing, and architectural structures.

Mandala's: The Early Days

Mandalas have long been present in Eastern religions, long before histories were studied. They are believed to have started in early 11th century in the Himalayas. They come in many forms such as molded clay, flat drawings and paintings. Some mandalas are even sewn by hand and placed with many semi-precious stones, depending on the culture that uses them.

However, mandalas are more than just diagrams. They are known to relax the mind and balance your body’s energy.

Mandala’s literal English meaning is “circle.” In Buddhism, the mandala symbolizes the ideal form of the universe.  This explains the round and perfectly balanced shape of most mandala drawings. The symmetry and wholeness of a Mandala represent the organizational structure of life.

Mandalas as Design: Aesthetic for the Soul

In architecture, there is no denying the presence of mandalas especially in the biggest cathedrals and historical sites of Europe. Their presence transcends religions as these can be seen prominently in churches of many faiths and beliefs such as Christian and Muslim praises of worship as well as Buddhist structures.

This is because mandalas are often connected to the concept of enlightenment and balance, which most religions espouse to their followers. For example, in Buddhist temples, mandalas are used as a means to connect and focus during meditation.

In Tibetan and Buddhist architecture, Mandalas can be found in Samye Monastery in Tibet and Boudhanath Stupa in Nepal.

Mandalas in Psychology

Due to their symmetry, even the field of psychology uses mandalas in subjecting people to tests. A famous purveyor of this renowned use of mandalas is psychology personality Carl Jung, who says that mandalas are a visual view of the totality of self.

According to Jung, the mandala often appears especially during times of anxiety. This probably explains why mandalas are relaxing to most adult colorists.

Mandalas in History

Mandalas have existed in history for several reasons that transcend simply just having it as an artwork. For starters, in the Buddhist tradition, mandalas are about five “excellencies”: teacher, message, audience, site and time. The Taoist on the other hand saw the balance of mandalas as one that represents interdependence and opposition.

The depth of respect of these cultures says so much about the divinity and functionality that mandalas have provided for people in several religions and across ages and lifestyles.


Today, mandalas have found their very own unique use in the form of artistic expression through coloring books, clothing, bags, and accessories. Still, these modern uses never fail to refer back to the illustrious history of mandala, a nod to its amazing presence in the past as well as the present

For clothing and accessories with beautiful mandala designs, see our collections here.

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