Illustrated introduction to Hinduism, £9.99
From northern India, dated AD 1631
Inscribed with mantras
A yantra is an abstract diagram made up of several symbolic geometric forms which is used as an aid for meditation or as part of a ritual. They are used by Hindus, as well as Buddhists and Jains; this one is identified as Jain by its inscriptions. Little has so far been published on the use of yantras in Jainism, though examples in use can be seen at Jain shrines such as Shravana Belgola near Mysore. Simiar ideas to those in this mystic diagram are seen in Jain painted banners and cosmograms.
The surface of this particular yantra is covered with incised mantras (sacred and powerful syllables), written in Sanskrit using the Nagari script common in northern India. Not only does each part of the diagram have a metaphorical meaning, but the very form of the yantra itself and its constituent parts is believed to have divine energy. Furthermore, each yantra is associated with specific colours and a mantra or a mystic incantation that both evokes and vivifies the divinity being propitiated.