Prayer flags are a common sight throughout Bhutan. For hundreds of years, prayer flags have played a major role in the traditions of the Bhutanese people. Bhutan’s prayer flags can be seen blowing in the breeze on every mountain pass, bridge, stupa, temple and on the roofs of people’s home. Hung high in order to catch the wind, they are placed there for good luck, happiness, long life and to offer good karma to all sentient beings.
Although it is very common to see strings of small coloured flags, the traditional prayer flag of Bhutan is vertical, attached to a long wooden pole and placed in groups close together. The sound of the flags fluttering in the wind is surprisingly calming.
To put up a prayer flag is considered a good deed for Bhutanese Buddhists and everyone will merit from the prayer as the wind blows the prayer through the air. They are often erected for the dead and the more flags, the more merit, although in recent years, the Bhutanese Government have tried to encourage the recycling of the wooden poles, rather than cut down new trees, or to use bamboo to avoid the forests disappearing.
The flags come in five different colours – blue, red, green, white and yellow. Each colour represents the five wisdoms of Buddhism and the five basic elements – sky, fire, earth, water and air. Buddhists believe that keeping these five elements in good harmony is good for the body and mind.
Prayer Flag Color Meaning
- The white prayer flag is for good fortune by purifying negative karma
- The blue prayer flag is for health and longevity.
- The yellow prayer flag is for victory over obstacles.
- The red prayer flag is for fulfilling your wishes.
- The green prayer flag is for compassion.