Posted on November 16, 019


Tihar is popularly called the festival of lights. Like the lights, mandalas are also a big part of the festival in Newar community.
In Newar community, most women engage in drawing mandalas, following the methods. However, mandalas are a meant to be a religious and cultural accomplishment. They are an ever-present concept in almost every puja, fast or celebrations.

In Buddhist philosophy, the mandala represents the principle and boundaries of life,” says Yagya Man Pati Bajracharya, a Buddhist scholar. “It explains how the universe functions.”
For Mha puja, the mandala drawn during the ceremony represents the human body, which is the main theme of the festival: worship of the self. Family members clean and rub earthen colour on the floor and space out room for number of mandalas that totals the members in the family.
In the beginning, a base is drawn using rice flour. The designs are usually two triangles overlapped within a circle. Many also trace various designs. Regardless of the variation in the designs, the mandala should constitute tyah (parched rice), black soybean, unhusked rice, rato mas (black gram) and ankhey (unpolished rice), sequentially in five concentric circles.
Specifically, in Newar Buddhist culture, mandalas represent the relation of five senses—sight, sound, smell, taste and touch—with the mind, says Bajracharya. It manifests the universe within ourselves that functions because of the four elements of life: earth, water, air and fire. It also represents the five celestial Buddhas: Vairochana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha, and Amoghasiddhi. This is interpreted for mandalas drawn during both Mha puja and Bhai Tika.
Some Hindu families during Mha Puja and Bhai Tika also make a mandala with five concentric circles with the potay (marble dust), sinah (red vermillion powder), dhaan (unhusked rice), flower and taa: (parched rice). However, here they worship the chakras says Abhas Rajopadhyaya, a cultural anthropologist.
These interpretations make mandalas more interesting, although it is primarily transcribed as a way to understand the spirituality of one’s existence. Nowadays, people have also started using different colours to decorate mandalas, but regardless of how much effort and time is put into making them, the result rests in spoiling it at the end of puja—signifying the impermanence of all physical existence.