You’ve probably seen a mandala at least once in your life. If you’ve traveled to Asian countries, you might have encountered a symbol that is circular, with a lot of geometric details inside it. This is what you call a mandala.
A mandala has become a powerful symbol for individuals because it has helped them keep focus and be aware of their role in the universe. Having a mandala tattoo as a reminder will surely give you the same effect. Read on to know more about this spiritual design and why people like having it as a tattoo.
What Is A Mandala?
A mandala is a spiritual symbol that loosely means “circle” in Sanskrit. Needless to say, this is often used in Hinduism but it is also used in Buddhism. There are different styles of mandalas and some of them are not only made up of circles, but they also have squares. But regardless of the many geometric shapes found in its pattern, you will always notice that a mandala has a circle in its center.
The center of a mandala is a circle because its purpose is to remind the person of his or her role in the universe. This means that the person is a speck in a wider scheme of things or in the cosmic universe. Another known purpose of the mandala is to be a depiction of one’s spiritual journey.
History Of Mandalas
The earliest evidence of a mandala being used is during the 1st century wherein Buddhists used the object to teach Buddhism to other Asian countries. If you aren’t aware, Buddhism was founded by Siddhartha Gautama and one of its notable aspects is the freedom of man from misery. In order to do that, man has to understand the source and the cycle of misery as well as the cycle of life and death.
As Buddhism spread, the use of the mandala was also adopted by other countries like China and Japan. Later on, Hinduism was found to use the mandala.
Breaking Down The Mandala
Different cultures have different elements and designs associated with their beliefs. However, if you juxtapose them, you will notice that they have a central theme. Here are three aspects you will often see as part of the mandala.
- External Surroundings
There are two common meanings for the outermost part of the mandala. If the mandala resembles a square wherein the sides of the square look like they have openings, then this kind of mandala makes use of the symbolism where the four sides are gates to enlightenment or through closeness with a deity. These four gates often resemble the letter “T”.
On the other hand, if the mandala tattoo design you are eyeing doesn’t have these T-shaped gates, then it takes another meaning. In other cultures, the outermost part of the mandala is a symbol of a person’s surroundings or the world they are moving in right now. Some consider it to be the universe.
- Pathways And Barriers
If you follow the Buddhist tradition, then the other geometrical shapes found between the outermost shape and the inner circle are considered to be the pathways to enlightenment. Some mandala designs resemble a maze in this part in which it means that the person will encounter problems and roadblocks along the way.
- The Center
And finally, found right in the center is the circle. As mentioned earlier, a mandala always has a center that is in the shape of a circle. Depending on what you want it to mean, this circle can be empty or it can have the symbol of a certain deity you want to portray. This center describes the enlightenment people will experience after they have gone through life and sometimes, death.
What To Consider When Getting A Mandala Tattoo
Before you book that appointment with your tattoo artist, make sure you have considered these things.
- What A Mandala Means To You
First and foremost, you should be able to understand what a mandala means. Unlike other images, a mandala is actually considered a spiritual image in other cultures, so you shouldn’t just wing your idea of getting a mandala. Moreover, be ready to explain why you chose a mandala to those who are curious about it. You wouldn’t want to be one of those people who just want to get “cool” images without understanding what they really mean.
You know that a mandala’s meaning and symbolism differs depending on the elements found in it. So, you should first determine the design you want your mandala to have. When doing this, it’s best to do some research because different shapes and patterns have different meanings. It also makes a difference if you attach Buddhist or Hindu symbols. In the section below, you’ll learn how to design your own mandala.
- Tattoo Permanence
If you only plan on getting a henna tattoo, then this is barely an issue since henna tattoos only last for a week to a month. However, if you plan on getting a permanent tattoo, then you now have to come to terms with the fact that once you get this kind of tattoo, it will be on your skin for as long as you live.
It sounds scary, right? Well, if you are ready for a lifetime commitment with your mandala tattoo, then it doesn’t seem daunting anymore. But not everyone is ready to have permanent marks on their body so if you are one of them, you might want to try a henna tattoo to get a feel of having a tattoo for more than a day.
- Old Age
It’s not just the permanence that you should be concerned about. Since you are planning on getting a design that has geometrical shapes, you should expect that as you grow older, these shapes will no longer look geometric.
When you grow old, your skin starts to sag because it loses elasticity. As this happens, you can expect that the permanent marks you have on your skin will not look the same as when it was first applied. In other words, expect that your mandala tattoo’s design will no longer look as perfect as you grow old. This is always the case for designs that rely on straight lines and symmetry.
While there is no restriction on where to put a mandala tattoo, it is often best placed in areas above the hips. This is because its appeal and meaning are often emphasized where it is easily seen and there is also a connotation in other cultures that a spiritual tattoo placed below the torso shows disrespect.
It’s important to know that this connotation is not a fact and that depending on the meaning of your mandala tattoo, certain guidelines would have to be followed in terms of placement.
Last but most definitely not the least is your budget. There are many factors that determine the budget like design, placement, uniqueness, color, size, and the tattoo artist’s own talent fee.
Since mandalas have complicated designs, expect that it will be a lot more expensive than your usual outline tattoos or geometrical shapes. Just imagine your tattoo artist following a very intricate pattern that you designed. This will definitely take hours no matter how small your mandala will be. Moreover, most mandalas have different colors. The more colors you add to the tattoo, the more expensive it will be.
How To Create Your Own Mandala Design
Mandala tattoos can be very unique and personal, specifically if you decide to make the design yourself. While mandalas are ancient designs that represent the universe, there is literally an unlimited number of patterns that can be created. Nowadays these designs feature a long list of shapes or patterns like hearts, flowers, stars, or even animals. Creating your own mandala can thus be an interesting experience, especially since you choose the right patterns that will represent your values, characteristics, and interests.
Before you start, think about why you want to create your personal mandala. Whatever your reason or purpose is, it will dictate the design and layout. You can either just choose random shapes that you find interesting, but if you want to create a meaningful mandala, you want to choose images that represent you.
Here are some of the meanings of the common mandala symbols to help you choose.
They represent the infinite or eternity. In religion, the circle stands for unity, protection, and wholeness. It may also stand for the sun.
The Trinity is what the triangle stands for. For the Christians, this is the trinity of the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. In New Age perspectives, this is the trinity of the body, the mind, and the spirit. If the triangle is pointing upward, it symbolizes spiritual growth and if it is pointing down, it stands for the physical world.
Flowers in your personal mandala will symbolize life and renewal.
If you decide to add leaves or vines to your mandala, it will represent rebirth or eternity.
The heart stands for love and compassion.
Once you have decided on the symbols, you can start drawing your mandala. You will need drawing paper (computer paper is ok, but is not as good), a soft pencil, a compass, a ruler, or a stencil of circle shapes. Instead of a compass, you may also use cups, a roll of tape, a bowl, or any round object that has the size you want.
The first step is to draw a huge circle on the paper, making it as big as possible because this is your mandala’s outer edge. Draw faint lines to divide the circle into 4 or 8 equal quadrants, depending on your preference. This is your guide and you can also mark the exact center of the mandala or the point where all the lines intersect in the circle.
Draw a small circle about 1 inch away from the center and continue adding more circles an inch apart from the last until you are within 2 inches from the outer circle. Keep this last part empty so that it has a wider circle.
Afterward, draw a shape of your choice on the innermost circle. Continue filling in the rings, using the lines to make sure the designs are the same shape and size. When you get to the outer ring, add a decorative design or scroll to complete your mandala.
Once you are finished, you can use a black marker to outline your personal mandala design. Then you can erase all the guide lines you drew on the circle. Lastly, color your mandala with colored markers or pencils. While some prefer using only two colors, you may also make it as colorful as you like.
Another important thing to consider is the color of your mandala because certain shades also have their own meanings.
Red color signifies strength, passion, and energy. Pink stands for love, intuition, and femininity while orange means creativity, transformation, and self-awareness. Yellow is for happiness and laughter but also for learning and wisdom. Green, on the other hand, is related to nature, caring, physical healing but also psychic ability. Blue signifies meditation, inner peace, and emotional healing while purple stands for all things spiritual, as well as spiritual focus. Lastly, black represents mystery, individuality, and deep thinking.
The colors you choose for your mandala is important because the mandala can be used as a healing tool. Thus, it may reduce stress and anxiety and even combat depression. It might also improve your immune system and bring other health benefits. You can express your creative side, which is not possible because of daily stress and responsibilities. Thus, if you create your own mandala tattoo design, you might want to give extra thought to the shades you want to color it with.
5 Body Placements For Your Mandala Tattoo
Mandala tattoos are interesting designs that anyone will find intriguing and interesting. However, body placement can be tricky because it is a complicated design and requires space to have it done properly. With the intricate shapes in every layer, it is not a miniature tattoo design. Here are the best spots to choose for your mandala tattoo.
The back of your neck is a central point in the back where you can have your mandala tattoo done. Its location means it can be easily seen unless you are wearing a collared shirt or a turtleneck sweater. The intricate design is also eye-catching and can be perfectly displayed here.
The shoulder is without a doubt one of the most popular places for a tattoo, simply because it is easily covered up when necessary. Moreover, there is enough space even for an intricate design like a mandala tattoo. For a nice mandala design, you can have it covering your shoulder. In this spot, even a black-and-white piece looks awesome.
Compared to the shoulder, the arm can be easier to work with because the skin is flatter and wider. So if you want a tattoo you can more easily display as well (even while you are wearing a sleeveless or short-sleeved top), then the arm is the right spot for you. An intricate design can even look like an interesting permanent “sleeve”. If needed, you can also just as easily cover it up with a long-sleeved shirt.
Back tattoos are the most common simply because of the wide space available. Plus, it can be so easily covered or even displayed when you want to. While you cannot easily admire it because it is out of your field of vision, it can still be a beautiful surprise to other people who see your back. In this area, you can make your mandala tattoo as big and intricate as you like.
The truth is, getting a tattoo on your feet will be more painful compared to having it done in other parts of your body. However, once you see your beautiful mandala tattoo on your calf, you will realize that it is all worth it. You can show it off while wearing nice strappy sandals or easily cover it up with long pants and boots.
How You Can Keep A Budget When Getting A Mandala Tattoo
Because of the complicated design and the many colors usually involved in creating a mandala tattoo, you are probably expecting your tattoo bill to reach up to a thousand dollars. While this is not impossible, there are other ways in which you don’t have to break the bank to get the design you want. However, note that you can’t just remove elements of a mandala because you want to cut back on costs. Unlike other tattoo designs, a mandala is not something you just subtract elements from.
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- Look for artists that offer referral discounts.
Asking your friends for their favorite artist is always the best thing to do. After all, you do not want to be permanently stuck with an ugly tattoo or need to spend lots of money just to have it removed. Better yet, some of these artists offer referral discounts, whether you come in as someone’s referral or you get some new customers for them.
- Look for artists that are building their portfolio.
Not many people are willing to take a risk with someone who is still gathering experience as a tattoo artist. However, just because they are still inexperienced does not mean they are not good. Sometimes, taking a chance with someone who has good samples so far can bring down the price of your mandala tattoo significantly. Of course, you might want to check for whatever work they actually have done and choose someone who seems to have lots of potential.
- Go in groups.
Group discounts can still apply to tattoos, so if you and your friends are looking to get inked, just go together! You will have the chance to share the experience and at the same time, you can all enjoy a bit of discount.
- Choose only one color.
If you are looking to save money on a tattoo, then choosing only one color is a good way to go. For such kind of tattoos, the mandala design is the best. A monochromatic mandala tattoo still looks impressive and the best thing is that it is cheaper in the end.
- Don’t overcomplicate your design.
A complicated design or a huge tattoo requires a lot of ink and work, so it is completely understandable that the bill is also higher. Thus, if you are looking to save some money on your tattoo, go simple and small. A mandala tattoo can be made easier with just a few layers and very few shapes or elements so that you would not have to pay too much for it in the end.
- Consider a tattoo studio outside the city.
Much like other businesses, operating within the city has higher overhead costs. This means, looking for someone in the suburbs can help you save some money on your tattoo. There are, after all, just as many good artists outside of the city as inside. Just be sure to check their reviews to make sure they are good, especially if you do not know them well.
Mandala tattoos look complicated, but it wouldn’t be a famous spiritual symbol if not for the help and meaning it has given to a lot of people. You don’t have to be overly religious to appreciate a mandala tattoo because what’s great about it is that you are able to design it the way you want it based on the meaning you want it to have. Just remember, be mindful of your budget, too!