|The Navajo Indian Tribe
create the world's most
beautiful and intricate
mandalas using a traditional
For the Navajo, each design element in a sand painting imparts meaning for the sacred
ceremony performed to honor the gods. The soft and subtle color of the sands and ground
minerals, the infinite variety in the repetition of the lines, the abstract conception of the
figures of the gods and transport the observer into a strange new world of beauty.
Basic is the simple theme of four designs placed around the center. The same theme is
repeated in squares and rectangles, then in numerous variations.
Representations are made of the underworld in the middle, the sun rafts of gods around
it, the three roots of the four sacred plants growing out from it, the designs change,
repeat, and announce in indestructible variety the sacred stories of the Navajo myths.
Navajo sand paintings are made in the mornings and early afternoons of the last days of a
ceremony lead by the medicine man and his helpers. After a ceremony the sand art is
The subjects and patterns of sand paintings are transmitted by memory. It is a highly
symbolism and sacred art. It is a representation of the coming of the gods and heroes
with all their holy appurtenances to the ceremony being performed. It signifies the
concentration of power.
When the painting is finished black lines about a foot long are placed all over it to
represent the power of the gods. Corn pollen, the emblem of fertility and strength of the
Navajo people is also placed all over the painting at various points. Prayer feather wands are
stuck in the enclosing lines. Then, the sand painting is destroyed.