The mandala is a symbol of spiritual significance across many cultures, and a popular tattoo subject used to represent the universe, consciousness, and the self.
Mandala means circle in Sanskrit and symbolizes balance, eternity, unity, and perfection.
The sand mandala is a key motif in Hindu and Buddhist religions with it commonly used to represent an idea of the universe. It can also be described as “the center of surroundings” or “sacred circle.”
Mandala patterns and pictures start at a central point then radiate outward in a circle, with a variety of other images or patterns making up the whole. They are often very intricate, detailed sets of images when drawn together, with scope for aesthetically pleasing symbolism that people respond to on a deeper level.
The following article looks to expand on ideas relating to the mandala tattoo meaning and looks at its Eastern religious roots, contemporary and tribal tattoo significance, as well as how modern tattooing applies technical and stylistic imprints to an old idea.
1. Buddhist and Hindu Symbolism
Mandalas, as most know them, stem primarily from Hinduism and Buddhism, but religious and spiritual scholars have identified mandala-type symbols in a variety of other religions, primarily Christianity and the Celts and Picts of pre-Christian Britain.
The mandala serves a conservative purpose – namely, to restore a previously existing order. But it also serves the creative purpose of giving expression and form to something that does not yet exist, something new and unique. The process is that of the ascending spiral, which grows upward while simultaneously returning again and again to the same point.
Hindu and Buddhist mandalas differ slightly. In Hinduism, they are known broadly as yantra and are used in meditative rituals. Every yantra is unique and relates to a specific god. The subsequent rings of yantra help the individual call forth the qualities bestowed by a respective god, using them to summon him or her. In this way, the yantra connects to the heavens but translates into lived practices of individuals and acts as a guide.
In Buddhism, mandalas function primarily in a religious context. Like in Hinduism, they act as a guide in meditation, but instead of leading their devotee in their daily life, they lead Buddhist monks in chants. Mandala art is also used to decorate temples throughout the Buddhist world.
2. Contemporary Mandala Tattoo Symbolism
In western culture, Mandalas are used to promote balance and harmony. This idea extends to mandalas becoming a spiritually linked method of tattoo, body art, and peace in general.
Mandalas are often used to promote a sense of peace, calm, and tranquillity which is often useful in yoga teachings, meditation practices, and various methods used to relieve stress while presenting a wide range of versatile meanings.
The meaning of any mandala is often felt before it is known. Deeply spiritual people wear a mandala as a tattoo to represent their belief in the connection between all things. The mandala pattern represents their consciousness, and their consciousness represents the universe, and the mandala pattern also represents the universe.
3. Lotus Mandala Tattoo Meaning
The lotus flower is also known as the Padma or the Sacred Lotus. Lotus tattoos depict the symbolic meaning of spiritual enlightenment, self-regeneration and rebirth, and as a symbol of purity.
In lotus flower tattoo designs, the petals symbolize spiritual awakening and the expansion of the soul, so this flower tattoo is a natural companion to the spiritual meaning of a mandala.
Mandala lotus flower tattoo ideas are often used to promote a sense of peace, calm, and tranquillity which is useful in incorporating yoga teachings, meditation practices, and Eastern philosophy into a permanent context.
4. Unalome Mandala Tattoo
In Buddhist tradition, the unalome represents the path towards enlightenment that is each person’s duty and purpose on this physical plane.
The swirls and twists in the design represent the trials and tribulations that we all face in everyday life, while the straight portion symbolizes the clarity and peace that is reached through enlightenment. Finally, the dots at the top of the piece signify the infinite nothingness that comes after death.
These interesting shapes can also represent the different aspects of the male and female depending on which way the spirals face. Female unalomes face left while the male faces right.
This orientation can also make for a more informed design concept when incorporating a traditional mandala into a unalome tattoo. These shapes should always be pointing up, as the path towards enlightenment moves the individual to a higher plane of existence.
5. The Mandala within Hamsa Tattoos
The Hamsa Hand is an ancient Middle Eastern amulet symbolizing the Hand of God. In all faiths, it is a protective sign designed to bring its owner happiness, luck, health, and good fortune.
The word Hamsa is derived from the five fingers on the hand. In contemporary tattoos, the pattern elements and reproduction of lines, images, and shades from mandala tattoo ideas can be incorporated into the design.
The eye is the most popular symbol inside a Hamsa, as superstition holds that warding symbols contain the element of bad luck within its design to prompt misfortune to pass by, thinking that it is already in possession of the wearer.
Other interpretations suggest that by wearing the evil eye tattoo, the wearer can bounce the bad luck and aggression back at the caster.
6. Elephant Tattoo and Mandala Design
For those with an interest in Hinduism and other Eastern philosophies, combing a traditional mandala symbol within the shape of Asian elephants can make an excellent tattoo idea.
A mandala elephant is often made with very intricate, detailed sets of linework images when drawn together, with the beast’s massive body serving as an appropriate border for the complex body art within.
They make for an aesthetically pleasing and symbolically meaningful elephant mandala design that many people respond to on a deeper level.
7. Om Tattoo and Mandala Meaning
An Om tattoo is a popular symbol related to enlightenment in Eastern religion and teachings. A popular definition for Om is that it’s the first sound in the universe. It’s a design concept that can be easily adopted within a wider, more complex mandala tattoo idea
The Om is a staple of Dharmic religions and is often sung as a mantra. You’ll hear the Om (sounds more like AUM) in all sorts of situations, from solemn religious ceremonies through to the beginning of a yoga class.
The presence of an Om symbol tattoo may offer a distinguished gateway to personal transcendence and can be effective when paired with other Eastern symbols that hold deep meaning, not only the mandala.
8. Sanskrit Script Tattoos
Sanskrit is an ancient language – the first to write ancient Hindu texts and their religious documents, known as Vedas.
The Sanskrit script looks beautiful when drawn and is commonly used in great tattoo art to spell out names, short benedictions, or mantras.
Sanskrit word designs have become increasingly popular for use in mandala flower body art thanks to the increase in accessibility for Eastern teachings, philosophies, and meditation practices. It makes them a natural fit when incorporated into designs featuring mandalas or another popular Eastern spiritual symbol.
9. Pointillism and Dotwork Mandala Tattoo Design
Pointillism is a popular modern tattoo technique that involves using thousands of tiny dots to create an image that looks solid from a distance and is often used to create effective mandala tattoos with geometric and 3D effects.
Pointillism isn’t just about randomly placing dots in an area to eventually create a drawing. Rather, tattoo artists are able to create very precise dots in a pattern, an essential component in mandala images and layered Eastern concepts.
These dot work patterns eventually grow to form the shape of the tattooed image, with some contrasting against precise linework and shading to create a larger effect. A good tattoo artist can create a truly complex mandala dot work tattoo incorporating this technique.
10. Geometric Pattern Mandala Tattoo
There are almost no limits to the design possibilities for different mandala concepts such as mandala flower tattoo and animal shape-based images (such as the butterfly mandala, for example). Lines, angles, shading, and the use of negative space to create a complex geometric pattern.
Geometry ties into nearly every mandala design and often accentuates the symbolism used when incorporating other concepts into body art.
If there’s a type of deep meaning you wish to incorporate into your mandala – such as the path to enlightenment, calm, or tranquility – you can do so with creativity and flair by applying a variety of technical options, whether it’s 3D design, a repeating circle mandala, or contrasting color and shading application.
11. Tribal Mandala Tattoo
On the flipside to complex geometry, tribal mandala tattoo takes a very simple approach, by using black ink and negative space to create an impactful tribal design.
A lot of traditional tribal tattoos are very similar to the mandala – but without concepts relating to the idea of a circle – especially with recurring pattern etching, use of flowing lines, and contrasting tattooed skin with
They are still symbols of spiritual significance that utilize great linework, shapes, and angles, but without some of the more aesthetically pleasing flourishes you might find in a more innovative geometric mandala.
12. Neo Traditional Mandala Tattoo Art
Neo-traditional tattoos add a vivid element of modernity to your old-school mandala body art by incorporating bright colors, different patterns, or co-opting a design style from other tattoo applications to provide more pop in your image.
You’ll often find neo-traditional mandala symbolism displayed in a sleeve tattoo or large thigh tattoo piece for example, often as a means to tie ideas and patterns together or to create a functional point of contemporary style that provides further meaning to the central idea.
As the options above demonstrate, there are tremendous opportunities to craft amazing mandala tattoo art, whether you opt for the old-school sand mandala concept, apply supporting images, or a more modern concept based on aesthetic design styles and concepts.
How you choose to illustrate your mandala art is entirely up to you, there is no wrong answer.