Sunday, February 11, 2007

A few grains at a time

You've probably seen this before on television or in a film about Tibetans or Himalayan culture, the tradition of sand mandalas. These are iconic religious images made entirely out of colored sand, laid on an outline a few grains at a time.

There is at present a week long ceremony going on at the temple where I'm studying, a ceremony I don't completely understand but that was explained to me as an annual event closing out the academic and calendar year. The Tibetans use a lunar calendar and the new year will be celebrated next week.

My classmates in the art school were charged with making this mandala and I spent a good part of the day going back and forth between school and the temple to photograph their progression. Here you see the outline of the mandala, as painted on a plywood making a box that can be folded and stored (you can see the crease in the center of the image).

This little bit of colored sand was used simply for a consecration ceremony. More colors and a greater volume will be used that what is pictured here.

The colored sand goes into a small metal tube that has a narrow band of ridges up the spine. The artist holds this in one hand and in the other a metal stick which he rubs up and down the ridges of the sand holder, the vibrations causing the sand to fall out the end of the tube.

The pictures here were taken over a period of about 7 hours. Unfortunately, I never got back to the temple to get a shot of the completed mandala before they wrapped the stand in banners and flags and then put a statue and a bunch of other stuff on top of it.



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