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This is a stance first discussed in the Agni Purāna on the subject of Dhanurveda (archery).

The best description (and really only, outside of the Agni Purāna itself) that I've been able to find is:

Keep your knees thirty six inches apart and stand in the shape of a haṃsapaṅkti and this position is called Maṇḍala.

Note that the units of distance are suspect (there are conversion issues).

The Agni Purāna itself has to say:

It is known as maṇḍala if the two knees look like a row of ham̀sas and (the feet are) four vitastis apart

Probably key to understanding this passage is the word (sanskrit/prakrit) "haṃsa" which appears in both. Wikitionary suggests that this is some sort of aquatic bird, but offers a list ranging from a swan to goose to flamingo. There are also other definitions for the word that seem irrelevant (a mystical text, a man with supernatural qualities, etc).

I've found many other resources that suggest that 4 vistastis would be roughly equal to 80cm or 30 inches, probably putting the 36 inches at the far end of a range for this position. This seems to be fairly extreme, at my height it's a difficult pose and seems to have limited utility for archery especially for bows as tall as those which Indians favored.

Does anyone have any insight into just what this position looked like or how it would be used in the context of archery?

Please also consider any imagery/descriptions from Hindu religious iconography or dance, as these have been useful in helping me understand other stances described within the Agni Purāna.

New information: This page (in the 2.142.152 section) that the hamsa/bird is the goose. And that the stance itself has the knees like a "flock of geese" instead of "rows" of them. This give me a better idea of what is intended, but I still find it insufficient.

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There is lot's of information about Vedic archery on this webpage. One chapter is completely dedicated to stances:

The Position (Sthanas):

  1. If the left leg of an archer is stretched in front and the right leg is contracted at the knee and their distance measures two hand lengths (cubits), such posture of the archer is known by the term ‘Alidham’.

  2. By stretching the right leg forward and contracting the left leg, the arrow goes far on release. This foot position of the archer is thought to be very special (or praiseworthy) and is known as ‘Pratyalidham’.

  3. If the archer extends his legs equally and their distance is one cubit apart, he assumes the position known as ‘visakhasthana’, a position for shooting a difficult target.

  4. If the place on which the archer stands is not too uneven, his legs are to be placed at equal distance (for keeping balance) without making any movement, and fixing them in an uniform position. The body should be made bent to the left at least one cubit down.

  5. If the archer kneels down and his thighs are contracted, his position is known by the name ‘Dardur akramam’, meaning ‘the movement of the frog’. This is a position by which an archer is sure to hit a difficult target.

  6. The stance or movement of an archer is compared to that of Garuda. When he moves forward by touching his left knee on the ground and then he contracts his right knee, and this is called the ‘Garuda Kraman’ position.

  7. A well-known position of sitting (cross-legged), known as ‘padmasana,’ is very auspicious for an archer.


UPDATE

Sorry for not providing any information for Maṇḍala stance. Dhanurveda doesn't describe Maṇḍala but it does refer to Agni Purana (AP) as a source of information.

In Agni Purana, Maṇḍala is a type of sampada position. Sampada is defined as:

"If the thumbs, calves, palms and feet are kept closely pressed against each other, the position (is said to be) samapada from it's characteristic feature." -- AP2.9-19

Then, this position is called maṇḍala if two feet look like a row of hamsas.

It i known as maṇḍala if the two knees look like a row of hamsas and (the feet are) four vithasis apart. -- AP2.9-19

The Maṇḍala movements are also explained in detail in Vidic text Nāṭya Śāstra (NS). However, this scripture is devoted to arts of dance and drama. Newetherless, the authentic war poses are mimiced in dancing. Read chapters 11 and 12.

Maṇḍala is a complex movement composed of 3-4 Khaṇḍas. Khaṇḍa is a combination of three Karuṇas. Karuṇa is defined as:

"The two feet moving [together]". -- NS11.2-3

The Maṇḍala Sthāna (posture) is defined as:

"It relates to Indra (i.e. its presiding deity is Indra). In it the feet are four Talas apart and they are obliquely placed and turned sideways, the waist and the knee are in the natural position." -- NS11.64-65

  • The whole page does not mention the stance that the question is about at all, though. Therefore, it may be a nice sidenote, but hardly an answer proper to what has actually been asked since it does not provide any information about mandala stance. – Philip Klöcking Oct 16 at 8:22
  • @PhilipKlöcking, with the help of Nāṭya Śāstra you could master the Maṇḍala posture. The dancers had to be very precise when playing a war scene. They had to know how real poses in archery and other forms of fighting looked like. – Marino Klisovich Oct 16 at 12:14

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