A prayer flag is a colourful rectangular cloth, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the Himalayas.
They are used to bless the surrounding countryside as well as for other purposes.
The traditional prayer flags incude woodblock printed text and images.
Traditionally, prayer flags come in sets of five: one in each of five colors. The five colors are arranged from left to right in a specific order: blue, white, red, green, and yellow. The five colors represent the five elements. Blue symbolizes the sky and space, white symbolizes the air and wind, red symbolizes fire, green symbolizes water, and yellow symbolizes earth. According to traditional tibetan medicine, health and harmony are produced through the balance of the five elements.
Traditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to gods, which is a common misconception; rather, the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.
By hanging flags in high places the Lung ta will carry the blessings depicted on the flags to all beings. As wind passes over the surface of the flags, which are sensitive to the slightest movement of the wind, the air is purified and sanctified by the mantras.
Because the symbols and mantras on prayer flags are sacred, they should be treated with respect. They should not be placed on the ground or used on clothing. Old prayer flags should be burned.