Mandala (मण्डल) is a Sanskrit word meaning "circle." Mandalas have spiritual and ritual significance in Hinduism and Buddhism.
The term is of Hindu origin. It appears in the Rig Veda as the name of the sections of the work, but is also used in other Indian religions, particularly Buddhism.
The basic form of most Hindu and Buddhist Mandalas is a square with four gates containing a circle with a center point. Each gate is in the shape of a T. Mandalas often exhibit radial balance.
In various spiritual traditions, Mandalas may be employed for focusing attention of aspirants and adepts, as a spiritual teaching tool, for establishing a sacred space, and as an aid to meditation and trance induction. In the Tibetan branch of Vajrayana Buddhism, Mandalas have been developed into sandpainting. They are also a key part of Anuttarayoga Tantra meditation practices.
In common use, mandala has become a generic term for any plan, chart or geometric pattern that represents the cosmos metaphysically or symbolically, a microcosm of the universe from an enlightened perspective, i.e. that of the principle deity.