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published: 1/29/07
updated: 12/10/13

Yantra




What is a Yantra

A yantra is a geometrical diagram representing the universe. It is used in Hindu worship and meditation, especially in Tantrism. A yantra is quite similar to a mandala, but a yantra is different in that it can be a three-dimensional object of worship as well as a two-dimensional diagram.

Yantra

Sri Yantra in brass
A three-dimensional Sri Yantra made of brass.
Image: Exotic India Arts.


Shri Yantra
Sri Yantra painting. Image: Exotic India Arts.


Sharbha Yantra
Sharbha Yantra painting. Image: Exotic India.


black Sri Yantra tattoo
Tattoo of a Sri Yantra. Photo: Rita Correia.

LIke the mandala, the yantra symbolizes cosmogenic development, from the absolute in the center to the material world at the edges. Yantras often have a seed mantra inscribed on them, and they are considered the verbal equivalent of a mantra.

A yantra is only created during a highly complex ritual in a purified and ritually consecrated place. A three-dimensional yantra is made of stone or metal plates and is imbued with the power of a deity.





It is then meditated upon as the deity, and is used as an instrument for visions of the unseen. A yantra is also drawn on the site where a temple will be built.

The best known yantra is the Sri Yantra or Sri Cakra, which is especially used in the Sri Kula tradition of Tantrism. It is made of nine intersecting isosceles triangles of different sizes: five "female" triangles pointing downwards to represent Shakti and four "male" triangles pointing upwards representing Shiva.

In the middle of the Sri Yantra is the power point (bindu), the highest, invisible, elusive center from which the entire figure and the cosmos expand. The triangles are enclosed by two rows of 8 and 16 petals, representing the lotus of creation and reproductive vital force. The broken lines of the outer frame denote the figure to be a sanctuary with four openings to the regions of the universe.

The Sri Yantra is considered the visual equivalent of the Sri Vidya, a mantra of 15 syllables. Each syllable represents a goddess who is located within the Sri Yantra.

Sources

  1. John Bowker, ed., Oxford Concise Dictionary of World
    Religions
    (2000).
  2. "Hinduism." Encyclopædia Britannica (2007). Encyclopædia Britannica Online.