0 Today I Learned...How a Sand Mandala Is Created

sand mandala, Emory University, Buddhist monks
Buddhist monks create a sand mandala at Emory University as part of "Tibet Week" 2010. Photo credit: Mark Hill/CNN

Part of Speech: n
Definition: Any of various ritualistic geometric designs symbolic of the universe, used in Hinduism and Buddhism as an aid to meditation.
Pronunciation: mŭn'də-lə
Etymology: from Sanskrit meaning "disc" or "circle"

Monks have been creating sand mandalas for thousands of years. The process begins with a free-hand outline drawn using chalk, rulers and compasses. The monks then rub a grated metal rod against a traditional metal funnel called a chak-pur to carefully place millions of grains of colored sand into the geometric mandala design.

As part of the annual "Tibet Week" celebration at Emory University, a group of Buddhist monks spent approximately 150 hours over six days creating an extravagant sand mandala. The ritual continued after the last grain of sand was placed, when, instead of admiring their handiwork, the monks passed out half of the sand to the audience as blessings for health and healing. The rest of the sand was poured into a nearby river as a gift to Mother Earth. The idea is that the sands symbolize the impermanence of life and carry the prayers they embody onward to everything they touch.

Watch the entire process in about two minutes thanks to time-lapse video. [via CNN]

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