Updated Monday, 4:07 p.m.
A team of visiting Tibetan monks began a four-day visit to Davidson College Monday with a ceremony in the college union that included chanting and the sound of horns, drums and cymbals. The ritual, in front of a table with ritual objects and a photograph of the Dalai Lama, consecrated the space as they prepared for the painstaking and meditative work of constructing a mandala sand painting.
The lamas are from the Drepung Loseling Monastery in Atlanta, a branch of the monastery in India that once was in Lhasa before the Chinese takeover of Tibet.
After Monday’s noon opening ceremony, the monks planned to draw an outline of their mandala on a wooden platform. During the ensuing days, they create the art work by pouring colored sands from metal funnels. They are scheduled to be working daily on the mandala through Thursday, and visitors are invited to watch. Hours are Monday through 6 p.m., Tuesday and Wednesday 10-6, Thursday 10-noon. A closing ceremony is scheduled Thursday at 11 a.m.
In Tibetan, this art is called dul-tson-kyil-khor, which literally means “mandala of colored powders.” Millions of grains of sand are painstakingly laid into place on a flat platform over a period of days or weeks. The painting’s form is created from icons that include geometric shapes and ancient spiritual symbols. At the opening ceremony, monks will consecrate the site of the mandala sand painting with chants, music, and mantra recitation. At the closing ceremony, the monks conclude their creation and sweep away the colored sand symbolizing impermanence.
The event is part of the Davidson College Artist Series.
There’s no charge to watch. While the monks work on their mandala, visitors also are encouraged to try their hand at the ancient practice by using a funnel and creating a Davidson Wildcat logo drawing of their own.
- David Boraks