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The Sanskrit word mandala can be roughly translated as ‘circle,’ and most mandalas feature geometric patterns of circles and squares radiating out from a central point. Buddhist mandalas incorporate many layers of symbolism, and can be found in paintings, sculptures, textles, and even architecture. The structure of a mandala can be thought of as a map or a blueprint; it is essentially a bird’s‐eye view of a palace.

In Tibetan Buddhism, a mandala represents the home of a deity. This deity can be found in the center of its mandala surrounded by attendant figures radia􏰀ng out from the center. Moving outward from the central circle, we find a square with four gateways on each of its sides. Each gateway is guarded by a pair of makaras—mythical sea monsters. Around this square, the largest circle is composed of a ring of five alterna􏰀ng colors, representing a moat of rainbow fire protecting the palace.

The number five is symbolically significant. There are five directions to each palace (north, east, south, west, and center) and five main colors used at each direction (green, blue, yellow, red, and white). Each color corresponds to one of the primary elements as well (air, water, earth, fire, and space).

Mandalas are made to be religious tools for visualization. Practioners practice constructing each mandala palace in their mind, and visualize themselves moving from outside to the center, joining the deity in their place of power. 

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