Prayer flags are symbols of Buddhism and are widespread throughout Bhutan. Prayer flags are hoisted for happiness, long life, prosperity, luck, and to offer good karma to all beings with feeling. Make a wish on a coloured prayer flag or view a memorial white prayer flag honouring those who have passed onto the next life. They are colourful rectangular pieces of cloth inscribed with prayers, mantras and auspicious symbols. Buddhists believe that the prayer flags generate spiritual vibrations that are released when blown by the wind and the prayers are carried in the air like silent prayers. Any person and place touched by the wind will be happier and uplifted.
Prayer flags are raised outside homes, hung on bridges, hilltops, and places of spiritual importance, for a very special reason. Prayer flags give the wind the opportunity to move them and activate the blessings. The wind is considered an expression of mind and mental energy which activates them,” said the scholar. When the shadow of the prayer flag falls on streams and rivers, it is carried to larger water bodies like seas and oceans and benefits the marine fauna. There are five different colours and each represents the five basic elements: Blue for space, white for air, red for fire, green for water and yellow for earth. Buddhists believe balancing these elements brings harmony to the environment and good health to the body and the mind.
Buddhists believe prayer flags benefit in four different ways: through sight (Thondroel), sound (Thoedroel) of the fluttering flags, thought (Dendroel) and touch (Regdroel). They are fastened to wooden poles vertically or sewn on to ropes horizontally (in case of chudhar). Yellow, green, red, white and blue colours are used in Lungdhar, depending on the element (fire, water, wood and earth) one belongs to.
One common belief while passing by the prayer flags is that one should keep the flags to the right. It is believed that prayer flags embody the Ku, Sung and Thu, (speech, body and mind) of the saints and circumambulating a prayer flag earns merit in the same way like when we circumambulate a Choeten, lhakhang or a dzong. When the prayer flag print fades, it should be properly disposed or burned. Tearing down the printed cloth or contaminating it is a sin.
Prayer flags can be found almost anywhere in Bhutan as they are dotted along the mountainsides, bridges and other areas. Interestingly, near Tiger’s Nest, prayer flags are stretched from one side of a mountain to another by bow and arrow. That’s precision. Prayer flags are also used to appease local spirits and gods. Hence, prayer flags are hung in places where they may reside like mountains, lakes, streams and valleys. To view another Bhutan video, you might like Bhutan: Land of the Thunder Dragon.
You might like the Gentleman Wayfarer Journal Series, a collection of large blank writing journals with Bhutanese Prayer Flags on the cover.