You have certainly already seen these colored rectangular pieces of fabric flying in the wind on the roof of a house or on the top of a mountain. They can be found particularly in the Himalayan Mountains: in Tibet, Bhutan, Nepal, Sikkim or even in Northern India. They are not fair banners or pennants linked to any sports competition, but Tibetan prayer flags!
Installed on the heights (summits, roofs, paths, passes, temples…), they carry the prayers and good energies with the wind to spread them to the whole universe.
The origin of the prayer flags comes from the Bön tradition (roots of Tibetan culture and spirituality).
What is the meaning of the Tibetan prayer flags?
On these colorful flags are printed mantras (man: spirit, tra: protection) for peace, harmony, wisdom, unity, interdependence, longevity and prosperity (among others!).
According to Tibetan Buddhism, the wind blowing against the prayer flags spreads a message of peace and harmony in the air. Traditionally, flags are changed on the occasion of Losar, the Tibetan New Year. (Ideally, it is even better to install a new prayer flag on a sunny morning with a slight breeze).
The meaning of colors
5 colors, 5 elements, 5 senses (in order):
White : the wind / the air
Red : fire
Yellow/Orange : the earth
What are the different types of prayer flags?
There are two kinds of Tibetan prayer flags. The Lungta and the Darchok.
Lungta (wind horse) are chains of small rectangles of fabric printed with different illustrations and mantras. They are so called because on many of them there is a printed horse that refers to the 3 Jewels: the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddha’s teachings) and the Sangha (Dharma practitioners).
Darchok are long cloth banners that are hung vertically on tall poles.
How are the prayer flags made?
First, the mantras (prayers) and illustrations are engraved on a tablet. Then, the rectangles of virgin cotton are printed with black ink thanks to these tablets (by press/stamp).
Once the pieces of cloth are dry, they are assembled in order according to their color.
Don’t forget to purify and harmonize your intention when you hang them!