What we know about a mandala is that it is a geometric design and a symbol in Buddhism and Hinduism. In general, mandalas represent the universe. Mandalas are usually used to increase focus while meditating or doing yoga. In home décor designs, mandala tapestries, paintings or tiles can be hanged on the wall or used as a tablecloth or for bedding. In some cases, mandalas are used in decors because of their magnificent patterns and symbolic meaning for peace. Mandalas are very much engaged with home décor styles such as bohemian, hippie and gypsy in the modern design world.
Most of us might think mandalas root back only to India and Buddhism while there has been a wide use of mandala designs in the history of art in other religions and areas as well.
Mandala designs are applied in Persian art and architecture frequently. Here we are going to introduce Persian mandalas, their meaning, and characteristics.
In Persepolis which was the ceremonial capital of the Achaemenid Empire in Persia (Iran), we can see lotus motif applied for decorating walls frequently.
Persepolis dates back to 515 BC. Achaemenid Empire had a wide geographic scope and many interactions with other neighboring civilizations at that time. Achaemenid kings employed many architects and artists from those neighboring areas like India and Egypt for building Persepolis. Researchers believe Indian and Egyptian designers have influenced Persian art and imported lotus motif to Persian architecture. As we know, the lotus is a symbol of spiritual growth and awakening. It has roots in mud while it grows facing the sun, so it symbolizes the purity of mind and the battle with ego.
After that “Shamseh” motif which was a symbol of the sun entered Persian art and architecture with the arrival of Islam in Iran. Sun is the symbol of divine light and the energy of life. “Shamseh” is also a symbol of unity in plurality in Islamic theosophy.
In Persian Islamic theosophy, each of us is a part of God. We have been separated from our source like the rays of the sun and, we need to always keep in our mind that we have a divine light in us, which is the source of love. This light always shows us the right path to grow and find our way back to our source.
Therefore in Shamseh motif, there is a center which is the symbol of god or the source of energy. This small circle is surrounded by many other circles or polygons with the same center but in different sizes. These circles are the light rays of the sun which symbolize every god’s creature. Every creature tends to reach God, so the purpose of life is to reach back the source of energy which is mentioned as pure love in some references. Some of us are closer to our origin, while some of us have a long journey to reach it. As in Shamseh, some circles are smaller, therefore, closer to the center.
Shamseh motif was wildly applied during Safavid time in Iran. Safavid was one of the most important ruling dynasties of Iran in art, architecture, astrology, philosophy, and theosophy. An extraordinary example of Shamseh motif would be the tiling of the ceiling of Sheik Lotfollah mosque in Isfahan.