The Rajamandala (or Raja-mandala meaning "circle of kings";  मण्डल, mandala is a Sanskrit word that means "circle") was formulated by the Indian author Kautilya in his work on politics, the Arthashastra (written between 4th century BC and 2nd century AD). It describes circles of friendly and enemy states surrounding the king's ( raja) state.  
The term draws a comparison with the mandala of the Hindu and Buddhist worldview; the comparison emphasises the radiation of power from each power center, as well as the non-physical basis of the system.
The terminology was revived two millenniums later as a result of Twentieth Century efforts to comprehend patterns of diffuse but coherent political power. Metaphors such as social anthropologist Tambiah's idea of a "galactic polity",  describe such political patterns as the mandala. Historian Victor Lieberman preferred the metaphor of a "solar polity,"  as in the solar system, where there is one central body, the sun, and the components or planets of the solar system.  The "Rajamandala" concept of ancient India was the prototype for the Mandala model of South East Asian political systems in later centuries, established by British historian O. W. Wolters.  
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Center for Southeast Asian Studies
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