Tibetan Prayer Flags: The lesser known facts

What's the Difference Between a 'Lungta' and a 'Darchog'?

Maybe not everyone knows that Tibetan prayer flags are either designed for horizontal or vertical hanging. For horizontal placement, it is called 'Lungta,' or 'Wind Horse.' For vertical mounting, it is called 'Darchog,' or 'flagstaff.' That means the Tibetan prayer flags will not pose much work and effort when choosing the ideal location to hang them; you can go for either the 'Lungta' or 'Darchog.' 

And that is a huge advantage for locations where hanging things can pose challenges. Especially in a typical house's yard where space may be limited or ideal places may not be available. As far as design and aesthetics, they can be visually attractive, on top of its being a source of blessings to people and places.

A Closer Look at the Prayer Flags

windhorse image

One unique traditional feature of the Tibetan prayer flag 'Lungta' is the image of a powerful horse with 3 'ratnas' or flaming jewels on its back. The horse symbol of 'ta' represents speed and of ill-fortune turning into good ones. The Buddha, the Dharma or Buddhist teachings, and the Sangha or Buddhist community are representations of the trio of traditional philosophies on which the entire religion is based. 

Bordering the 'Lungta' image are roughly 400 or so traditional 'mantras,' each of them consecrated to a god or deity. They also include mantras from Bodhisattva of Wisdom (Manjusri), Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), and Chenrezig (Avalokitesvara).  

You may be wondering how the images and text are placed on the prayer flag. Well, with the blocks already carved with the images and mantras, ink is smeared on the surface, then pressed onto the fabric, leaving the print on the prayer flag.

Hanging prayer flagsImage Courtesy of Jonovernon-Powell

Together with the potent mantras are prayers specifically for good fortune and long life for the individuals involved in setting up the prayer flags. Mounting them may involve certain risks, challenges, and difficulties, and these prayers help give these people needed protection and blessings in life.


four dignities, THE LITTLE TIBET BLOG

Image Courtesy of Mandalas.life

Quite noticeable, the corners of the prayer flags are adorned with the names, or images, of the 'Four Dignities' represented by four animals. They are the tiger, snow lion, garuda, and dragon. Additionally, the prayer, 'Om Mani Padme Hum' could approximately be translated into English as ‘Praise to the Jewel in the Lotus.’ Alternatively, taking each word's meaning:

Om               The Sacred Syllable, embodies pure body, speech, and mind

Mani             Jewel, altruistic intention for enlightenment, compassion, and love

Padme         Lotus, wisdom

Hum             Spirit of Enlightenment, the immovable, unfluctuating

The prayer flags are meant to encourage compassion, peace, strength, and wisdom. The prayers and mantras inscribed on them are carried away by the wind to deliver kindness and goodwill everywhere to benefit people.

How Prayer Flags Spread Blessings

As the prayer flags are hung high above the ground, they carry and disperse the blessings to every human and every being it encounters. The air around them gets purified and blessed as the flags react to the slightest wind movement.

With the passage of time, and due to rain, wind, and sunlight, the prayer flags, and the images and prayers in them, gradually fade and disintegrate into the air, the universe. And the circle of life goes on. Time after time, new prayer flags are put up to replace the old ones. It represents the continual affirmation of our hopes for humanity and the world, and the never-ending cycle of life we humans and other beings are all a part of.  

Further Reading on Tibetan Prayer Flags

1. Introduction: Spread Good Vibes with Tibetan Prayer Flags

2. How to Utilise the Tibetan Prayer Flags

3. Tibetan Prayer Flags: The Lesser Known Facts

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