Sand Mandalas Are Intricate Works Of Art That Are Meant To Be Destroyed

Imagine spending weeks creating an artistic masterpiece: perfecting an intricate geometric drawing, meticulously filling the lines with colorful Himalayan sand, ensuring that not one grain is out of place. Then you sweep the whole thing away and throw it into the ocean. That's exactly what monks do when they create sand mandalas, a Tibetan Buddhist tradition created as containers for blessings, power, and well-being. The blessings then flow into the ocean to be shared with the world.

Tibetan sand mandala.
Colored sand.

Everything Is Temporary

According to the Huffington Post, Tibetan Buddhist monks have traveled across the globe to build these sacred cosmograms for more than 2,500 years. Contrary to popular belief, the mandalas signify more than impermanence—they're meant to be a representation of the world in divine form, one that heals both the Earth and its inhabitants.

They also take a lot of work. A five-foot-square mandala requires millions of pieces of sand and can take weeks to complete. First, the monks hold an opening ceremony where the land is consecrated with music, chants, prayers, and mantras. Then, the monks meticulously map out their mandala's geometric patterns. After at least a full day of drawing, they apply naturally dyed grains of Himalayan sand using special copper funnels and a scraper in a process that could take weeks. Multiple monks work to complete the design, then hold a second consecration ceremony before dismantling the whole shebang.

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Sand mandala destruction ceremony.

Peace Be With You

According to, after laboring over their beautiful creation, "the sand is carried in a procession by the monks," then ceremoniously poured into a flowing body of water, where the sacred sand blesses "all elements and all beings." Beyond the religious message, there's a lesson in this for all of us. Nothing is permanent, and everything could disappear without a trace. It's important to cherish the things you have now, but let things go just the same.

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Written by Curiosity Staff May 15, 2017

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