Ashvatha tree is the Ficus religiosa or the peepal, also called the sacred banyan tree in India. There are references to this tree in the Vedas, Bhagavad Gita and the Puranas.

The poem refers to the vision experienced by sage Markandeya while meditating on the banks of the river near his ashram. After incessant rain that blinds the sage’s vision he observes the trees, the mountain, the land around him disappear in a sea of water. The universe is plunged in darkness and in what appears like pralayam (the deluge that ends the world) the sage floats desolately till he sees a peepal tree stand alone in the sea of water and his eyes focus on the emerald glow at the centre of a leaf.

Drawing near, the sage sees Krishna the child lying on the leaf. Sucked in by a deep breath from the child, Markandeya sees millions of universes and millions of suns, successive creations and destructions, the land of the devas, the earth, the plants and animals, the mountains, the river that flows thick with silt through the mountains, his ashram on the banks of the river where he is seated in deep mediation.

‘Mandala’ in Sanskrit means ‘circle’.

(The banyan leaf and the figs were done in Adobe Illustrator.)