What are the Tibetan Prayer Flags?

The Tibetan word for prayer flag is Lung-Ta, meaning “Wind Horse”. When the sacred prayer flag flaps in the breeze, it is seen as an expression of the quality and nature of the mind. The prayers written on the flag are carried on the wind to all living beings.

Seeing the flag also has a practical benefit as it reminds people to be mindful of the Dharma as they proceed in their daily lives. When Tibetans see prayer flags, they are reminded of the call to pray for the welfare of all beings, to work for virtue and good fortune, healing, and happiness in the world.

History of Prayer Flags hanging prayer flags

One theory states that prayer flags are believed to have originated with Bon, a Tibetan religion pre-dating Buddhism (between the 6th and 4th centuries BCE). In Bon, shamanistic Bonpo used primary-colored plain flags in Tibet. Traditional prayer flags include woodblock-printed text and images.

Nepal Sutras, originally written on cloth banners, were transmitted to other regions of the world as prayer flags. According to another theory, legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Gautama Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. The legend may have given the Indian bhikkhu a reason for carrying the heavenly banner as a way of signifying his commitment to ahimsa.

This knowledge was carried into Tibet by 800 CE, and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040 CE, where they were further modified. The Indian monk Atisha (980 – 1054 CE) introduced the Indian practice of printing on cloth prayer flags to Tibet and Nepal. During the Cultural Revolution, prayer flags were discouraged but not entirely eliminated. Many traditional designs may have been lost, and currently, different styles of prayer flags can be seen all across the Tibetan region.

Types of Tibetan Prayer Flags

There are two kinds of prayer flags: horizontal ones, Lung-Ta, and vertical ones, called Darchog, pronounced dar-lcog, and meaning “flagstaff.”

Lung-Ta (horizontal) prayer flags are of a square or rectangular shape and are connected along their top edges to a long string or thread. They are commonly hung on a diagonal line from high to low between two objects (e.g., a rock and the top of a pole) in high places such as the tops of temples, monasteries, stupas, and mountain passes. Darchog (vertical) prayer flags are usually large single rectangles attached to poles along their vertical edge. Darchog is commonly planted in the ground, mountains, cairns, and on rooftops, and are iconographically and symbolically related to the Dhvaja.

See also

Tibetan Prayer Flags – Meaning and Symbolism

When to Hang Tibetan Prayer Flags


Sources: Tibetan Handicraft Co-operative and Wikipedia