Updated: Dec 7, 2019
Most of us relate these colorful flags to travel and often hang them in their car or on their bike symbolizing that they are travelers. But these small flags carry deep meaning and purpose. Also known as Buddhist Prayer flags, they essentially carry our prayers via the wind to get them answered. They are also used to bless the surrounding area and for many other purposes. That is why you see them tied across bridges and monasteries.
Here are some facts on the colorful prayer flags.
<1> There are two different styles of prayer flags.
Yes, there are not one, but two different types of prayer flags and both have different names. The horizontal ones that you see the most are called Lung Ta which means "Wind Horse".
They are square or rectangular shape connected along their top edge by a string. They are commonly hung between two points and you can find them alongside bridges or across rivers and streams. The fading of colors from the flags is considered auspicious.
The lesser-known of the two, the vertical prayer flags, is known as Darchog which means "Flag Staff". These are usually large single rectangular flags attached to poles along their vertical edge and is mounted on a pole or any high place. These are commonly planted in the ground, mountains or rooftops. Darchog is more symbolically related to the Dhvaja.
<2> The colors symbolize elements in Nature. The colors on a prayer flag are vivid and look really cool, but they are certainly not random colors. Each of the colors symbolizes elements like air, fire, earth, and water.
Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five, one in each color. The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green and yellow.
Blue symbolizes sky and space,
White symbolizes air and wind,
Red symbolizes fire,
Green symbolizes water,
Yellow symbolizes earth.
<3> "Om Mani Padme Hum" has a deep meaning. The words seen on prayer flags, "Om Mani Padme Hum" is not just any set of words, but carry deep meaning and is considered a mantra. "Om" - The sacred syllable,
"Mani" - jewel,
"Padme" - lotus,
"Hum" - Spirit of enlightenment.
One interesting piece of information about this mantra is that it doesn't have one particular meaning. It is a combination of values like compassion, ethics, patience, diligence, renunciation, and wisdom. It is said that if you recite the mantra during meditation, it can cure pride jealousy, ignorance, greed, and aggression.
<4> Prayer flags should never be still.
This is one of the reasons the flags are placed in places where it can be fluttered by the wind.
It is said that they emit spiritual vibrations and that the prayers are carried by the wind like silent prayers.
<5> It is a good omen to receive prayer flags as gifts.
Getting prayer flags as a gift from someone and not buying them is how you acquire a prayer flag. Therefore, telling a friend who visits Leh-Ladakh or any such place to get you prayer flags is the right thing to do. <6> Prayer flags shouldn't touch the ground. Yes, that's right. Dropping a prayer flag or allowing them to touch the ground is considered disrespectful as per Buddhist monks and Tibetan people. Therefore, they should always be hung at a height and taken care that they don't touch the ground.
<7> Fading of colors is good.
The fading of the colors from the flags is considered auspicious. This means that the prayers are being carried by the wind and the fading colors are a sign of it.
Disclaimer: The pictures on this page are not taken by me and I don't claim any rights on the pictures. The credits go to the respective owners of the pictures.