While traveling to the upper reaches of Himachal, primarily in Spiti, one finds many symbols of Buddhist prayers in the form of colorful flags fluttering in the air and symbols carved on stone. Memories of some places are etched on the mind by a mighty cold wind blowing and the sound of waving flags. At some places, you would find rows of rocks carved with prayers.
Most of the time, you would find these flags tied on top of the highest tree branch, on a treacherous slope, sometimes really high up along a building, house, or just on poles. I have wondered in amazement how does anyone manages that, more so not for the technicality of getting a flag up there but for a reason or thought behind it.
My curiosity led me to explore this prominent feature that, for me, defines the magnificent Spiti mountains, its beautiful and humble people, and the many roads less traveled with unimaginable beauty at every bend of the way. Prayer flags trace back to centuries-old Tibetan tradition to spread Peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. Tibetans believe that the prayers/mantras on the flags flow to the Universe with the winds, which purify the air spreading and spread goodwill and compassion to the pervading space and bring harmony to all beings.
In modern times it is only in Tibetan culture that flags bearing prayers are prevalent. These are of 2 types vertical (Darchor: means ‘flagstaff’) and horizontal (Lung ta means ‘Wild Horse’). Traditionally flags come in a set of 5, each a different color, each color signifies the elements, in a specific sequence, arranged Left to Right as Blue (Space), White (air), Red (fire), Green (water) and Yellow (earth).
All the five elements together bring about harmony and balance, along with the prayers and symbols of the features the flags bring about peace to everything that is touched by the wind. On your travels, do get a flag in the same spirit and hang one in the open to spread harmony and positivity, we can all use some. Till then, keep trippin on the love that naturally surrounds the beautiful mountains, and let us bring some to the plain.
PS: to get a complete history of the flags, please visit this site to this beautifully written doc.