Prayer flags are rectangular pieces of cloth strung across Himalayan mountain ridges and peaks.
According to Buddhist legend, the Devas (God-like non-human entities), would carry these flags on which Gautama Buddha’s teaching were inscribed, to battle the Asuras (power seeking nature spirits).
Over time most of the traditional designs and inscriptions have been lost, and currently there are many commonly found styles.
These flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength and wisdom.
Since the flags have inscriptions on them, it is believed that when strung across mountain tops, the wind will carry these prayers off to distant places and help others.
The only reason you should put up prayer flags is, if you intend to spread peace and goodwill.
9 Facts you should know
1. There are two types of prayer flags
A ) Darchog or Vertical Prayer flags
These are large pieces of rectangular cloth strung vertically. These are not commonly found.
B) Lung Ta – Wind Horse
These flags are considerably smaller in size when compared to vertical prayer flags. These too are rectangular in shape and come in 5 colours. They are commonly hung diagonally from high to low points.
2. Prayer flags are made in 5 colours
Blue for sky
White for air
Red for fire
Green for water
Yellow for earth
They have to be arranged in this specific order stated above.
3. They possess deep meaning
Each prayer flag is inscribed with Mantras that possess a deep meaning. They are both for the world and for the person putting them up.
4. Common misconception
It is a misconception that Prayer flags are an offering to God. Since these flags have inscriptions on them, it is believed that when strung across mountain tops, the wind will carry these prayers off to distant places.
5. The method of hanging them
Ideally, they have to be strung diagonally from a higher point to a lower point.
6. The Way They Look
The hems of prayer flags are intentionally left unhemmed. It is natural for them to fade and fray. This symbolises the inevitability of all things passing.
7. When to put them up?
Ideally, They have to be strung in the morning or on a windy day.
8. Where to put up prayer flags?
Prayer Flags are not meant to be still, so try have them outdoors where the wind keeps them constantly moving and spreading your good intentions.
9. Should you buy one for yourself?
It’s not ideal to buy one for yourself. They should always be given to friends as a gesture of goodwill or you can ask your friends to bring you back one if they happen to be visiting Leh-Ladakh.