When you arrive in Nepal, the one thing that you will notice from the city, up to the mountains, through the high passes, villages and along the trail are prayer flags strung all over. One of the most common sights that catch your attention beside the mountains while trekking and climbing in the Himalayas are the prayer flags. With the Himalayas in the background, watching prayer flags fluttering is stunning and calming. Swaying with the breeze, they are not just there for decoration. So, what are these flags?
A colourful and rectangular cloth comprising of five different colours holds a strong belief in the Buddhist community. In Buddhism, everything in this world is a composition of five elements (Sky, Air, Fire, Water and Earth). These different colours on the flags are the symbolic representation of these elements. Apart from the five elements, prayer flags are inscribed with auspicious symbols and invocations. Prayer flags are believed to promote peace and prosperity. It is believed that the prayers/mantras in the flags are carried by the wind to the god and will bless all the sentient beings. As the prayer flags fade away, it is believed that the prayers have been answered. Prayer flags are hung on auspicious days as per the Tibetan calendar.
Here are a few things you should know about Prayer Flags:
1. There are two main types of prayer flags:
There are two main types of prayer flags which are “Lung Ta” and “Cho Dar”. Lung Ta are the horizontal ones and Cho Dar are the vertical ones attached to the pole.
2. Prayer flags comprise of five different colours:
Prayer flags comprise of five different colours which each represents an element.
Blue: Sky and space/ Sense of hearing
White: Air and wind / Send of touch
Red: Fire / Sense of vision
Green: Water / Sense of taste
Yellow: Earth / Sense of smell
3. The Prayer flag is a sacred thing
A prayer flag is a sacred thing among Buddhist people. They should not be kept at the ground and it is considered disrespectful to step and cross over the prayer flag as it contains prayers and symbols. When disposing of prayer flags, burn it as it is believed that the smoke will carry the blessing to heaven.
4. Prayer on the flags are believed to be carried by the wind
It is believed that the prayer on the flags is carried by the wind. The prayer flags are strung usually in high places where the wind is stronger. The prayers carried by the wind are like silent prayers.
5. While hanging a prayer flag, always keep the blue cloth of prayer flag at the top.
While hanging the prayer flag, always keep the blue cloth at the top and yellow at the bottom. The blue cloth on the flag should always be kept at the top and it is perfectly fine to tie the flag with each other if you require.
6. While hanging prayer flags, good intentions are required
You don’t have to be a Buddhist to hang the prayer flags but a good intention is required. Instead of a self-centred attitude (I will benefit from this) having a good positive attitude (May all sentient being benefit and receive happiness) increases the power of the prayers.