Prayer flag is a colorful rectangular, often found strung along mountain ridges and peaks high in the. They are used to bless the surrounding countryside and to carry the prayers they contain to the heavens.

Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to Gautama Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags by the Nepalese monks as a way of signifying their commitment to harmlessness. This knowledge was carried into Tibet by 800 AD, and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040 AD, where they were further modified.
Even during the Chinese Cultural Revolution, prayer flags were not entirely eliminated though many traditional designs may have been lost.

 


There are two kinds of prayer flags: horizontal ones and vertical ones.  Horizontal  flags are square or rectangular  and are connected along their top edges to a long string. They are commonly hung from high to low between two objects (e.g., a rock and the top of a pole) in high places such as the tops of temples, monasteries and mountain passes. These are the prayer
   
          Prayer flags in 
Kathmandu, Nepal. 

flags most commonly known in the West. Vertical prayer flags are like national flags, on a pole and are commonly flying from peaks and rooftops.

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 thefive elements and theFive Pure Lights.  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

The center of a prayer flag traditionally features a powerful horse bearing three flaming jewels on its back: The horse symbolizes the speedy  transformation of bad fortune to good fortune. The three flaming jewels symbolize the Buddha, the Buddhist teachings, and the Buddhist community, the three cornerstones of Tibetan philosophical tradition.


Surrounding the horse are various versions of approximately 400 traditional mantras, each dedicated to a particular deity. These writings include mantras. In addition to mantras, prayers for a long life of good fortune are often included for the person who mounts the flags.

Images or the names of four powerful animals, also known as the Four Dignities, adorn each corner of a flag: thedragon, the garuda (the Hindu and BUddhist phoenix), thetiger, and the snowlion.