The construction begins with the monks drawing the mandala's geometeric design on a five-foot, square, wooden platform or base called a "tek-pu." The artists measure out and draw the architectural lines using a straight-edge ruler, compass and white ink pens. This process usually takes about three hours.
Once the diagram is drawn, the monks begin the multi-day, delicate process of laying millions of grains of colored sand onto the design, layer upon layer.
The monks select from many the desired color of sand and scoop them into a metal funnel, known as a "chakpur" (chang-bu). The chakpur is either tap or scrape with a metal rod to cause sufficient vibration to release the sand grain by grain through its narrow end.
The two "chakpurs" are said to symbolize the union of wisdom and compassion.
Crushed limestone is used to create mandalas because it provides particles that are fine enough for exquisite detail and can be colored with vegetable dyes or opaque tempera.
Mandalas usually have three levels each having its own meaning:
The creation of a sand painting is said to affect purification and healing on all three levels.