Sand Mandalas are a Tibetan Buddhist tradition where the monk will spend weeks creating the design out of colored sand and then destroy the masterful and intricate work of art.
The Mandalas are dismantled in a special ritual ceremony once they are completed and people have had a chance to view the unique work of art. Breaking it down once the mandala is finished demonstrates a beautiful Buddhist doctrinal belief about the transitionary nature of our mortal lives.
On a symbolic level, it shows us how we design and build beauty in our lives and then when we are done our energy returns into the earth.
The ancient tradition dictates that the mandala be created from crushed colored stone instead of dyed sand.
Once the design is finished and people are allowed to see the design there is a ceremony to destroy the design. If the mandala contained symbols of deitys then they are even removed in a specific order. The different symbols are also dismantled in a special order until the whole mandala is completely dismantled.
After the Mandala is dismantled the sand is collected into a jar and then after being wrapped in silk it is carried down to a river or area with running water. Then the sand is returned to nature in order to symbolize the ephemerality (brief existance) of our life and the world itself.
Check out this timelapse of the whole ceremony.