A mandala is a geometric configuration of symbols. In various spiritual traditions, mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of practitioners and adepts, as a spiritual guidance tool, for establishing a sacred space and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. In the Eastern religions of Hinduism, Buddhism, Jainism and Shintoism it is used as a map representing deities, or specially in the case of Shintoism, paradises, kami or actual shrines.
Brief history of Mandalas - Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha), the founder of Buddhism, was born in the region now known as Nepal. Though there is no confirmed date of his birth, historians believe it to be around 560 B.C. It is understood that Gautama left his kingdom after becoming aware of human suffering, where he sought to attain enlightenment through meditation and thoughtful action. He began to preach his philosophy across parts of India, where he gained devout followers and eventually established the first sangha, Buddhist community of monks.
As these Buddhist monks travelled the Silk Road, an ancient network of trade routes that connected the East and West, they brought Buddhism to other lands. They carried mandalas with them and brought the practice of painting these spiritual compositions to other parts of Asia, appearing in regions such as Tibet, China, and Japan by the 4th century. Though rooted in Buddhism, mandalas soon became present in Hinduism and other religious practices. Painters of the spiritual craft were often pious laymen, who were commissioned by a patron. They worked seated on the floor with a painting propped in their laps or in front of their crossed legs.