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History & Meaning of the Mandala

Mandala shoulder tattoo by Christina
Mandala Tattoo by Christina


The mandala design style has been around for quite a long time in human history, approximately 2000 years, actually. Traveling Buddhist monks helped spread the design and its meaning around Asia over the years. In modern times, the mandala tattoo is very popular in many different crowds. They’re not exclusive to any single group.


Like previously mentioned, in the first century BCE, the mandalas were essentially created by Buddhist monks. There’s no definitive ‘for certain’ who exactly was the first person to create one was. However, it is very often credited to the founder of Buddhism, Siddhartha Gautama of Nepal.

As the monks transversed Asia, along with sharing their wisdom and religious dogma, they also shared many other things, including their mandalas. People were immediately mesmerized by the ornate beauty of these designs, their intricacy, the endless possibilities for variation, and the deeper meaning besides just the art that it was.

Monks didn’t adorn the design as a tattoo, but rather painted on paper (which was invented in China) and on cloth. Soon, the artwork began appearing on other artwork, including pottery and tile work. Not long after, the symbol became just as important in Hindu as it was for Buddhism. As time moved on, it made its way into popularity into China and Japan. To this day, from Tibet to Japan, the mandalas maintain their importance in Asian cultures.


Besides just being beautiful art, mandalas have a much deeper meaning and purpose. There are three layers to the meaning behind mandalas: the outer, the inner, and the secret. The outer is a representation of the universe. The inner is enlightenment. The secret is the balance of both the body and the mind.

There are various images commonly found in a mandala. First, is the center point, the beginning where you start your focus. Surrounding the center often starts with either a circle or square of geometric patterns. These patterns delve into deeper meanings with their symbolism. Some of the more commonly used are explained below.

  • Sun: The sun represents energy, life, and the universe, and is found very often in a mandala.
  • Triangle: When pointing up, triangles can represent energy and movement, and when pointing down, they can represent the seeking knowledge, creativity, and inspiration.
  • Bell: Bells can represent the clarity of emptying of the mind to allow the passage of wisdom.
  • Lotus flower: One of the more sacred symbols in Buddhism and Hinduism, the lotus often stands for balance and mankind’s enlightenment and spiritual awakening.
  • Eight Spoked Wheel: With a wheel being a circle, it represents the universe in its perfection. The eight spokes represent the eightfold path of Buddhism which lead to reincarnation and freedom.


There are multiple types of mandalas, and each have their own different meanings. There are many, so we’ll share just a few of the more dominant ones seen in this ancient society.

Kalachakra Mandalas

The  Kalachakra is used for meditative reasons and means “The Cycle of Time”. Monks would meditate on the Kalachakra mandala, ritualizing the qualities of their diety as a means to become a diety themselves. This mandala is used in a way to turn regular minds into an enlightened healing mind.

Teaching Mandalas

Another popular type is called the Teaching mandalas. Teaching mandalas are largely symbolic and all aspects of the mandala represent different tenets of Buddhism. During a monks monastic education and learning, they often create their teaching mandalas.

Mantra Mandalas

Mantra mandalas are supernatural in nature, focusing on the deities and the powers and abilities of these otherworldly beings. Focusing on a mantra mandala, a monk can invoke their deity during a deep meditative state and be blessed with their power.

Healing Mandalas

Healing mandalas are created to focus on meditating towards a deeper sense of wisdom, concentrating and getting balance and aligning the energies of the body, mind, and soul.


Besides all the spiritual and religious connotations, mandalas are just a beautiful work of art with endless design possibilities. They also make a great subject for a tattoo!


If you’re ready to get your next tattoo done, schedule an appointment with an award-winning tattoo parlor. Here at Lucky Bamboo Tattoo, we have some of the best and most experienced tattoo artists in Utah and the Salt Lake City area. We can tattoo any style you’d like, and our artists can even design your next piece as well.

Come see why we have been voted “The Best Tattoo Studio In Utah” for several years in a row.

Lucky Bamboo Tattoo understands that tattoo collectors searching for the best tattoo shop in Utah comes with a big responsibility and we here at LBT are ready to fulfill your tattoo needs.

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