One of the most eye-catching objects in Tibet is the Lungta, traditional Tibetan prayer flags. These strings of colorful rectangular flags are printed with prayers on them and are commonly found atop mountain ridges and peaks all over the Himalayas.
It is believed that hanging the prayer flags in high places the Lungta will carry and spread the blessings depicted on the flags to the rest of the world and bring peace and harmony.
The colourful flags are believed to have originated with Bon religion, which predates Buddhism in Tibet. Unlike the five-colored Lungta, adorned with prayers and religious images, prayer flags in the Bon tradtion use only primary colours and plain designs. But over the centuries, these prayers flags have been modified and absorbed into Tibetan Buddhism.
There are two types of prayer flags: horizontal ones, known as Lungta (meaning “Wind Horse”), and vertical ones, called Dharchok (meaning “Flagstaff”). While both Lungta and Dharchok are of rectangular shapes in most of the cases, Lungta can be found in square fashion.
Lungta (horizontal) are connected along their top edges by a long thread. It is common to see them hung horizontally between two objects in high places, like mountain passes, and on the tops of religious sites like temples, monasteries and stupas.
Dharchok (vertical) prayer flags are usually huge single rectangular flags attached to poles along their edge in a vertical fashion. They are commonly planted in the ground, mountains, and on rooftops of houses. You will notice a plenty of them on the rooftops of Tibetan houses almost everywhere.
Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five with each bearing a distinct color. In terms of arrangement, the five colors are aligned from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. The five colors represent five different elements that are vital to the essence of traditional Tibetan medicine: Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. It is believed that health and harmony are achieved through the balance of the five elements.
So next time when you visit Tibet, make it a point to hang few strings of Lungta to fulfil your share of contribution in spreading peace and harmony all over the world!