Prayer Flags

Credits: Pawo Choyning Dorji

The mountains in Bhutan are splattered by colors from the prayer flags. Among the hundreds of colorful prayer flags, one feels almost close to peace.

The prayer flags, seemingly fluttering at random, has a great significance and importance based on each of the colors. The flags themselves are inscribed with mantras and sutras for happiness, peace, wellbeing, good fortune, prosperity… It is believed that when the winds move through the flags making it sway in the wind, the prayers drift through the air, and anybody or anything being touched on its path receives the blessings.

Prayer flags on Dochu La (pass) between the Thimphu and Punakha Valleys, Bhutan

The prayer flags are made out of five colors, representing five elemental powers. Red represents fire; blue is water; yellow for earth; white for the sky; and green for vegetation. The belief in Buddhism is that keeping these five elements in good harmony benefits the mind and the body, and peace is attainable.

Each flag also has other special meanings associated with them, namely, white is for the purification of karma and for getting rid of negative energy (vajrasattva). Blue is for good health and longevity (Tsa La Nam Sum). Red is for the fulfillment of wishes (Sampa Lhundrup). Yellow is for overcoming obstacles and difficulties (Gyaltsan Semo), and green is for compassion and kindness (Praise to the 21 Taras in Buddhism).


The prayer flags are a wish and a desire for peace for all sentient beings. I like to think of the Sanskrit line “Lokah Samasta Sukhino Bhavantu” when I think of prayer flags, which roughly translates to ‘May all beings be happy everywhere’.

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