My interest in mandalas goes back to a period in the 1980s when I conducted
Research in Pune, Maharastra.The Plan to publish a book on Mandalas and yantras in the Hindu traditions took shape over time as I observed the growing popular interest in Tibetan Buddhist mandalas. Unlike the many Tibetan mandalas which include pictorial representations of multiple deities, most published mandalas in the Hindu traditions appear to be simpler and more abstract in design. However, Hindu mandalas, especially from Nepal and Rajasthan, often include painted images of deities. Complex mandalas are also described in texts, and the practitioner is instructed to visualize multiple deities in the mandalas, although these deities may not be represented. This volume reproduces several mandala designs, some of which have been reconstructed from texts. Since texts often do not specify all details of the mandalas, such reconstructions necessarily remain tentative.
With the exception of the sricakra, which as attracted considerable interest, adequate attention has not been devoted to mandalas and yantras in the Hindu traditions and tier multiple uses. Unlike the approaches of earlier books, which often arrive at generalized conclusions, this book attempts to clarify important aspects of mandalas and yantras in specific Hindu traditions through investigations by specialists. In the present state of research it is best to avoid generalizations and broad comparisons across traditions that rarely take into account exiting differences, and often turn out on closer examination to be inaccurate. The complex Buddhist mandalas for their part merit a separate study. Nevertheless I hope that this book will indirectly contribute to a better understanding of the mandala in other South Asian traditions, and will lay the foundation for future inquiries.
The essays in this book explore some aspects of mandalas and yantras in the Smarta, Pancaratra, Saiva and Sakta traditions. An essay on the Vastupurusamandala and its relationship to architecture is also included. It would have been useful to have essays on the use of yantras in Indian medical systems, astrology or folk traditions, or on geographical space as a mandala. It was, however, not possible to find qualified authors who could write these essays within the given time frame. Thus this book is a contribution to the study of an area of South Asian culture which has hardly been researched, but it is not an exhaustive treatment. This would have been an unrealistic goal, given the extant mass of material on the topic.
Back of the Book
In recent years mandalas have attracted much interes among a wider public. The main focus of such interest has been directed towards Tibetan mandalas, specimens of which have been included in numberous publications. But mandalas are found across a wide spectrum of South Asian religious traditions, including those of the Hindus and Jains. Hindu mandalas and yantras have hardly been researched.
This book attempts to fill this gap by clarifying important aspects of mandalas and yantras in specific Hindu traditions through investigations by renowned specialists in the field. Its chapters explore mandalas and yantras in the Smarta, Pancaratra, Saiva and Sakta traditions. An essay on the vastupurusamandala and its relationship to architecture is also included.
Gudrun Buhnemann is a Professor of Sanskrit and South Asian Religions in the Department of Languages and Cultures of Asia, The University of Wisconsin-Madison, USA. Her recent Publications include The Iconography of Hindu Tantric Deities (2 volumes, E. Forsten, 2000-2001).
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