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The meaning of mandala tattoos

Words by Adam Jolley
The meaning of mandala tattoos

Timeless, beautiful and full of meaning, it’s no wonder the mandala has been picked up and run with by the tattoo world.

In simple terms, the word ‘mandala’ comes from the ancient Sanskrit word for ‘circle’. The design can trace its roots back to ancient Hindu and Buddhist practices where it served as a powerful tool for meditation and spiritual growth. In old Indian scriptures, for example, the mandala is known to symbolise the universe itself.

Many traditional spiritual texts also view the mandala as representing the sacred journey towards enlightenment; its intricate patterns and vibrant colours acting as a symbolic gateway to inner peace and self-realisation. 


The mandala isn't just confined to the past, however, and retains deep meaning in modern cultural and religous practices too. In Tibetan Buddhism, for example, mandalas play a crucial role in rituals and meditation, serving as visual aids for concentration and the visualisation of deities. Tibetan monks also painstakingly create sand mandalas, pouring coloured sand into intricate patterns, only to dismantle them upon completion, emphasising the impermanence of life and the transient nature of the material world.

Beyond Asia, the mandala has long broken cultural boundaries, captivating artists and spiritual seekers around the globe. Famous psychologist Carl Jung is said to have viewed the mandala as a visual representation of the self, even noticing that he experienced the urge to make mandalas during intense moments of personal growth.

Mandala tattoo meaning

mandala tattooImage @beccashawtattoos

People from all walks of life are drawn to the mandala's beauty and spiritual resonance, finding solace and tranquillity in its intricate designs and symbolic depth. Whether found in ancient temples, contemporary art galleries or in this case, tattoos, the mandala remains a powerful symbol of unity, balance, and the eternal quest for inner harmony.

When it comes to tattoo mandala meanings, harmony and balance are strong themes to draw from. In contemporary culture the mandala has also gained popularity as a symbol of mindfulness (used in colouring books and home décor), with the intricate patterns and soothing symmetry finding their place as a tool for stress relief and relaxation.

Part of the mandala's appeal is that there are a whole host of interpretations you can lean into to fit your own interests, experiences and/or world view. Whatever way you look at it (or whichever meaning you choose), the mandala no doubt makes for a personal and, not to mention, awesome tattoo.

mandala tattooImage @beccashawtattoos

“I love doing mandalas as they can tell a story and can be a really nice addition to a sleeve. They also work great as a stand-alone piece,” says Becca Shaw, a tattoo artist based in East Yorkshire (@beccashawtattoos).

“I love doing the dotwork only with lots of layers as it adds lots of dimension to the piece and makes it super interesting to look at. I also find all the dotting very relaxing which is a bonus.”

When picking a mandala style and placement, they’re a very flexible design.

“There’s so many styles to do them and it’s been really fun developing my own style and finding what I like doing and seeing in mandala pieces,” adds Becca. “I’ve found you can make them fit anywhere, and always do the more detailed pieces on much larger areas so you have the space to blend the dotting out nicely.”

mandala tattooImage @beccashawtattoos