The first of the three weeks of sand mandala construction comes to a close with the central square almost completed. Next they will make a big green circle to represent a garden and populate it with elephants and horses. Finally, the whole thing will be enclosed in an elaborate border to be about 1.5 metres in diameter.
Finally I got to see a monk at work when I visited yesterday. Ven. Karma Geysen scraped a infinitesimal stream of coloured sand out of his ridged funnel, filling in blue and red shapes on a white background, then working on a panel that I had thought looked like ribbons or dragons wings. Watching him begin by drawing the central figures that will be surrounded by flowing curves I realised that they are actually little stick men with staring eyes and golden crowns. Looking at one of the posters of the finished mandala (here's one I prepared earlier...) I could see that the figures were like lamas dancing with long shawls floating around them. Looking at the poster made me think that the panel that reminded me of fountains last time also had eyes and so maybe the 'fountains' are more like beings, emanating a spray of something from their heads?
I noticed that while the monk was working, other visitors would stay longer and look more closely at the mandala than they seemed to do when I visited during their breaktimes. It was fascinating to watch shapes appear under the tip of the funnel, especially as the stream of sand is so small as to be almost invisible so it's almost as though the mandala is being created out of thin air. Every now and then he would sit up and empty his funnel into a bag or jar of sand, and refill it with another colour, which always appeared a much lighter shade in the container than it did on the mandala where every colour is incredibly intense.