Mandala of the All-Knowing Buddha, Saravid Vairochana, 17th century
Tibet
Ground mineral pigments on cotton
35 x 27 ½ in.

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Mandalas are representations of the abodes of deities and the Buddhist understanding of the universe. They are visual tools used in complex Tantric Buddhist practices. Typically, a mandala is a symmetrical diagram oriented around a center. It is comprised of concentric circles and squares that represent the architecture of a divine palace. Mandalas may also serve as ritual objects and protective talismans. They can be painted, drawn, made of colored sand, or be actual architectural structures, such as temples and small models made of painted and adorned wood or metal.
This Tibetan hanging scroll painting, or thangka, from the 17th century was created using mineral pigments mixed with glue and applied with brushes to a prepared canvas. It represents the sacred palace, or mandala, of the All-Knowing Buddha, Saravid Vairochana. All the figures within the image–Buddhas, bodhisattvas, protectors, and deities–as well as the architecture and gardens, are an extension of the central deity, Vairochana’s enlightened nature.

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