The Prayer Flags - And their meaning

Tripoto

We all must have seen the beautiful and holy prayer flags, fluttering in the wind at several monasteries and mountain passes. But ever wondered why are they hanging there or what do they mean? What do the mantras read, or what do different colours on them signify?

Read on.

Photo of Zanskar by S S (Saurabh Sabikhi)

A prayer flag is a coloured cloth often found on mountain peaks. They are hoisted with some true intentions and beliefs.

People put them on high mountain peaks, so that they could bless the surroundings. These flags often have holy mantras on it and it is believed that whenever the wind blows these mantras travel through air.

There is a rigid tactics in putting the prayer flags in a right order. Each of the colours has a vivid meaning to preach and the order itself hints at the staunch belief embedded with the prayer flags.

Prayer flags traditionally have five sets, one in each of the five colours. The five colours are assorted from left to right maintaining a particular order. The colours used are blue, white, red, green and yellow. Each of these colours stands for an element of spiritual nature. These represent the Five Pure Lights.

Blue stands for the sky. It symbolizes the vastness of space. This colour is said to have the quality to calm down disturbed souls and help them meditate and gather wisdom. This colour symbolizes sanctity of Buddhism and meditation.

White stands for the element of wind. In Buddhism, it is the colour of knowledge. This colour attempts to clarify all the curses of ignorance thus illuminating the light of knowledge.

Red symbolizes fire. It gathers life-force to sustain and survive.

Green stands for the element of water. This colour is for brotherhood, peace and harmony.

Yellow stands for Earth. It symbolizes renunciation. Under meditation, everything on Earth is equal irrespective of differences.

So next time you see prayer flags on the mountains, or while crossing a mountain pass, know that you are truly blessed by their presence.

And if you are putting one up, it would be great if you put them up in the right order.

Not only this. There are different kinds of prayer flags. One of the most common in the country is the one with the mantra "Om Mani Padme Hum" on it.

It's not just a mantra, but each syllable of the mantra has a deep meaning attached to it.

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

There is so much more that a prayer flag depicts.

If you are reading this and want to know more, I'd be glad to share.

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