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Things You Should Know About Tibetan Prayer Flags

tibetan-prayer-flags-things-to-know

Nowadays I am seeing people are hanging some decoration on their bike’s handle especially on bikes which used for leh ladakh trips. I was in search of more details about this hanging decoration.

When I have seen this for the very first time, like everyone, I also thought these are just pieces of clothes with some words on it. Later I came to know, It is nothing but the Tibetan Prayer Flags.

The sad part of hanging this flags on bike is, most of the people really don’t know the real purpose of having it on their bike.

Those prayer flags you’ve hung on your bike are not just some fancy accessory. Everything right from the color to the words on the flags has a deeper meaning.

A prayer flag is a colorful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and for other purposes.

Prayer flags essentially carry our prayers via the wind to get them answered. The objective of this article is to let you know about Tibetan Prayer Flags before hanging them on your bike.

There are two kinds of flags – horizontal and vertical

There are several types of Tibetan flags but they all generally come under 2 broad categories.

Darchen flag
IMAGE CREDIT: TIBETANINCENSE

1. Dar-ding – These are long strings of flags hoisted horizontally between trees or pillars with five colored flags kept in a sequence. First comes the Yellow, followed by Green, Red, White and Blue.

2. Darchen – These are narrow flags flown vertically on a pole and can be hoisted outside houses.

Usually travelers are hanging the Dar-ding category of the flags on their flags.

Each color of the flag represents an element

The prayer flag tradition is ancient, dating back thousands of years in India and to the shamanistic Bon tradition of pre-Buddhist Tibet.

Bonpo priests used solid colored cloth flags, perhaps with their magical symbols, to balance the elements both internally and externally.

prayer flags colors
credits:westwindcollection

Blue –  for sky or space
White – for air or clouds
Red –  for fire
Green –  for water
Yellow – for earth

They also represent directions – North, South, East, West and Center.Balancing these elements externally brings harmony to the environment.

According to Traditional Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.

The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow.

‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ has a very deep meaning

Om- The sacred syllable
Mani- Jewel
Padme – Lotus
Hum – Spirit of enlightenment

This mantra does not have one particular meaning. It’s a combination of values like compassion, ethics, patience, diligence, renunciation and wisdom.

Om-mani-padme-hum
The mantra in Tibetan with the six syllables colored, credits : Wikipedia

 

It is said that if you recite the mantra during meditation, it can cure pride, jealousy, ignorance, greed and aggression.

It is commonly carved onto rocks, known as mani stones, or else it is written on paper which is inserted into prayer wheels.

When an individual spins the wheel, it is said that the effect is the same as reciting the mantra as many times as it is duplicated within the wheel.

Tibetan Prayer flags should never be still

The reason why they are put high above the roof is so that they flutter in the wind. It is said that they emit positive spiritual vibrations and that the prayers are carried by the wind like silent prayers.

tibetan prayer flagsIMAGE CREDIT: PRAYERFLAGS.TUMBLR.COM

Great care should be taken while handling prayer flags and also during flying them.

The flags are normally flown at the places of higher altitude across trees. They could be also flown outside the houses to bless the people living in the house as well as those living around.

It’s a good omen to receive them as a gift

Getting Tibetan prayer flags as a gift from someone and not buying them is how you should acquire a prayer flag. Therefore, telling a friend who visits Leh-Ladakh to get you prayer flags is the right thing to do.

The prayer flags should never touch on the ground

It should be kept in mind that the Tibetan prayer flags should not have contact with the ground or kept at a dirty place. A great respect should be given to them, as they are objects of Dharma and are all filled with images of god and goddess and sacred mantras.

prayer flags
IMAGE CREDIT: FLICKR

It is considered disrespectful if the flags touch the ground. Therefore, they should always been hung at a height. Around the frame of the doorway is considered the right place to put the flags.

When prayer flags can be hoisted

Color fading from the flags is considered auspicious. This means that the prayers were carried by the breeze – fading colors are a sign of it.

Prayer flags are hoisted on auspicious days like Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and when stars are in an auspicious arrangement according to the Tibetan almanac.

It is believed that if flags are hoisted on inauspicious days, it might have adverse effects.

hoisted flags
IMAGE CREDIT: INTOTHEMIDDLEKINDOM

Inauspicious days according to Tibetan Lunar Calendar

Month1234566(2nd)789101112
Day 1-15107411077411041
Day 15-25221916132219191322191613
Day 25 to end of the month282828252825

From the Tibetan medical & astro institute of HH the Dalai Lama.

Flags are flown on important occasions like 3rd day of Tibetan New Year “Losar”, Marriages and official functions. People belonging to all classes and background fly them.

Prayer flags are also hoisted at times of illness and while traveling to avert misfortunes.

This is the main reason why our trippers are hanging the flag on bikes. I hope this would have been a new knowledge to most of my readers.

Let’s share this article to the travelers who are hanging Tibetan prayer flags on their bike.

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