Trekking or strolling through the Himalayas, you come across many colorful flags, the bright rectangular shaped flags tied along the mountain peaks or to a sacred place like a Monastery or a Stupa. Have you ever wondered what does those flags mean?
Thinking about Himalayas with Buddhist origin, the first few things which cross our mind are snow clad mountain peaks, monasteries, prayer wheels and these colorful prayer flags. These are not the general flags, but they have some beliefs, acceptances and ideologies.
The Prayer Flags are hung in the air believing it spreads the prayers across the land and the fading of its prints represents that the prayers have become the part of nature and are then renewed just like life moves on and is replaced by new life.
Originally the Blessings and Sutras were written on cloth banners and were transmitted to other regions as prayers. Then, Gautam Buddha started writing prayers on battle flags which were used by Devas against the Asuras. The knowledge was then carry forwarded by Tibetans and the actual prayer flags which you see on mountain peaks were introduced.
Types of Tibetan Prayer Flags
There are 2 kinds of Prayer Flags:
Lung Dar – These are the square shaped flags connected through a string in a diagonal pattern from high to low.
Dar Cho – These are the large single piece rectangular shaped flags attached along the pole’s vertical edge.
Meaning of Different Colors in Tibetan Prayer Flags
The prayer flag is divided into 5 parts each represented with 5 different colors having different wisdoms:
- Blue for the Sky – This represents the expanse of space
- White for Wind – This represents the knowledge
- Red for Fire – This represents the survival force
- Green for Water – This represents peace and harmony
- Yellow for Earth – This represents the establishment
These 5 colors also represent the five directions i.e. North, South, East, West and Center.
Meaning of Mantra written on Tibetan Prayer Flags
The Mantra written in Prayer Flags is “OM MANI PADME HUM” which means:
- OM symbolizes impure body, speech and mind
- MANI means jewel which symbolizes selfless concern for well-being of others
- PADME means lotus which symbolizes Wisdom
- HUM is the combination of selfless concern and wisdom
Overall, this means the method of combining selfless concern and wisdom to purify body, speech and mind.
Things to know about Tibetan Prayer Flags
- Prayer Flags are used to promote peace, benevolence, courage and wisdom.
- It is believed that when the flags are blown in wind, it spreads the blessings and prayers written on flags across the region.
- Eventually the printed prayers fade, and it is said that the prayers have become the part of Universe now and hence color fading is considered auspicious.
- Old flags are replaced with same amount of admiration and loyalty with which new flags are hung.
- The ceremony of taking down the old flags and hoisting the new ones is carried out during Tibetan New Year called Losar.
- They should never be kept on the ground. Keeping them on ground is considered disrespectful and hence are always hung at a height.