Posted by: Claire | April 11, 2012

Tibetan Prayer Flags

prayer flag is a colorful panel of 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.  They are usually woodblock-printed with texts and images.

Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five, one in each of five colors. The five colors represent the elements  Blue symbolizes sky/space, white symbolizes air/wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth.  According to Tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.

Darchor (vertical) prayer flags are usually large single rectangles attached to poles along their vertical edge. Darchor are commonly planted in the ground, mountains, cairns, and on rooftops.

The Indian monk  Atisha (980 – 1054 CE) introduced the Indian practice of printing on cloth prayer flags to Tibet and Nepal.  Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Shakyamuni Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries.    You can find more detail in Wikepedia.

The best time to put up new prayer flags are in the mornings on sunny, windy days.

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