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7 Things You Should Know About Prayer Flags

Tibetan prayer flags atop mountains and flying high above cities are some of the most mesmerizing, beautiful sights we’ve encountered throughout our trips to Nepal. The colored flags flutter in the wind, always moving like confetti dotting the sky. And although their beauty is hard to ignore, they mean much more to the people of Nepal than simple decor. The prayer flags are an important part of their culture. The colors, the words they bear, and their location all symbolize more than just pretty decorations. Here are some things you should know about these flags.

  1. There are two kinds of prayer flags: horizontal and vertical. Horizontal prayer flags are called ‘lung ta’ and are usually hung in a diagonal. Vertical prayer flags are called ‘dar chog’ and are hung on a flagstaff and planted in the ground. 
  2. The flags should never be still. Prayers and positive spiritual vibrations are supposed to be carried via the wind, not to the gods, but throughout the land to spread goodwill and compassion.​

    Video credit Chris Marquardt.
     

  3. Each color represents an element. White represents air. Red represents fire. Green is water. Yellow is earth, and blue represents the wind. The colors also represents the five directions: north, south, east, west, and center.​

  4. ‘Om mani padme hum’ can be seen on the flags and carries significant spiritual meaning. Om- the sacred syllable, mani- jewel, padme – lotus, hum – spirit of enlightenment. This is often recited during meditation. Although it doesn’t have a particular meaning, it represents a combination of values like compassion, ethics, diligence, and passion and can cure cure pride, jealousy, ignorance, greed and aggression.​

  5. The flags should never hit the ground. They are also often placed high in the mountains, in lakes, streams, and valleys to appease the spirits/gods, since it is believed that is where they reside. ​

  6. Faded color is a good sign. It means the prayers have been carried by the wind. The more faded the flag, the more prayers that have been spread. 
     

     Photo credit from our friends at Mulxiply. 

  7. It is considered a good omen to receive prayer flags as a gift. Prayer flags should be acquired, not purchased to own. A friend or family member should also gift you your prayer flags. ​

Gift prayer flags to your spiritual friend for a thoughtful, unique gift and be sure to tell them the meaning behind prayer flags.