Tibetan flags – Lung ta and darchor prayer flags

Tibetan prayer flags are flags with meaning that flutter in the wind in Tibet, India and Nepal. The decorations with Buddhist prayer sayings can be found in the streets of the Himalayan Mountains. The use has spread to other regions. People all over the world are attracted by the meaning of the flags and hang up flag lines. They can also be seen in the Alps. What do those patches mean, why are the flags not neatly hemmed, what do the colors stand for and how are they made? Lung ta bunting and darchor banners are full of symbolism with the wind in the leading role.

Source: Ii7017, Pixabay

Prayer flags from the Himalayan region

  • Tibetan prayer flags
  • Lung ta and darchor
  • To colour
  • Hanging the flags
  • Five dyani Buddhas
  • Block printing


Tibetan prayer flags

Tibetan prayer flags are flags that are important to Buddhist culture. You see them in countries around the Himalayas. You encounter them in abundance in Tibet (China), Nepal, Bhutan and India. The buntings are called Tibetan prayer flags, but the tradition comes from India. In about 840, Buddhists in India were already writing spells on pieces of cloth. Two hundred years later the custom was introduced in Tibet. Priests used them in their rituals. During the Chinese Revolution (1966 to 1976) the flags were banned.

Lung ta and darchor

The pieces of textile are printed with prayers and mantras, traditional and general congratulations, and are hung in the wind. The wind spreads the prayers and thus makes a positive contribution to the world. The wind carries peace, prosperity and harmony. According to tradition, the flags in combination with the wind spread peace, compassion, strength and wisdom. There are two types of prayer flags, the lung ta and the darchor flags.


The lung ta prayer flags are the small bunting lines made of square or rectangular pieces of fabric. A bunting line is just over 5 meters long and the flags usually measure 18 x 16 centimeters. The colorful flag lines decorate the streets and give cities a festive appearance. Lung ta stands for wind horse.


The second type, darchor, is formed by larger flags of rectangular pieces on a stick, banners. They flutter so that the wind can carry wishes of long life and well-being. Dar means strengthening life, happiness, health and wealth and chor stands for all sentient beings.

To colour

The flags are made in sets of five colors and hung in a fixed order. They are the three primary colors plus white and green. The order of the colors is fixed. From left to right the first color is blue, followed by white, red, green and yellow. The order of the colors is important for achieving balance. The colors, their order and the symbols reinforce each other.

Each color has its meaning and represents one of the five elements: heaven, wind, fire, water and earth. Each color has a property.

Hanging the flags

You do not hang the flags for yourself, but for the happiness of all beings. The best time to hang them is in the morning of a windy and sunny day. In Tibet, new flags are hung en masse during the Tibetan New Year (in February or March, the date changes annually). The flags may not hang on the ground or be incorporated into clothing, because of the symbolism behind the flags. The higher the flag line hangs, the better the wind can get hold of the prayers written on the textile and the purer the blessing that reaches loved ones and the flag hanger.

The lung ta flags are hung in a special way so that they can flutter beautifully in the wind. They are hung between two high points or stretched diagonally downwards from a high point. In Tibet they use rock pinnacles, temple roofs or stupas for this. By fluttering in the wind, lung ta can bring blessings to all living beings. This brings prosperity to the person hanging the flags and also to his family, friends and acquaintances. Even to the enemies of the hanger. Tibetan flags purify the air according to belief.

Kathmandu / Source: DMz, Pixabay

Source: Jackmac34, Pixabay

Source: Adonyig, Pixabay


Frayed flags

Tibetan prayer flags are not hemmed. Old flags fade and fray due to the effects of wind and sun. The fraying on the textile shows its transience and shows that the prayers have been absorbed into the environment. Tibetans leave those discolored and frayed flag lines hanging and hang new ones next to them. The ancient flags belong in the cycle of life, death and rebirth. The new flags next to the old ones symbolize the regenerating aspect, life that can renew itself.

Five d yani Buddhas

The five colored flags are connected to the five dyani Buddhas. Tibetan Buddhists believe that Adi-Buddha is the oldest and highest being. This Buddha, through his meditative powers, created five dhyani Buddhas, heavenly Buddhas that believers can visualize during meditation. They are the Buddhas of Wisdom. The term dhyani comes from the Sanskrit dhyana , which means meditation. Each dhyani Buddha is associated with certain attributes and symbols. They embody one of the five wisdoms: presence, clarity, wealth, passion and action. They also represent the five groups of existence, the five skandhas : consciousness, form, feeling, perception and fullness.

Buddhas of Wisdom

Each dhyani Buddha has its own color, hand gesture, symbolic animal, sacred symbol and bija, a metaphor for the origin and cause of things. The five Dhyani Buddhas are: Vairocana, Akshobhya, Ratnasambhava, Amitabha and Amogasiddhi.



Dyani Buddha




Akshobhya Buddha




Vairocana Buddha




Amitabha Buddha




Amogasiddhi Buddha

act well



Ratnasambhava Buddha

be present in the moment


Tibetan prayer flags in the Alps / Source: Jeanet de Jong

Block printing

The flags are made by hand, using a Chinese printing technique called block printing. The technique dates back to the 7th century AD and is considered the oldest of all printing arts. At that time, 700 sheets could be printed per day. The text or image to be printed was drawn on paper and transferred to a perfectly smooth wooden block. The image is cut from the wood with knives and chisels. Each color of the printed matter has its own block, just like a linoleum cut. The pre-treated fabric is spread over a long table. Then the block is dipped in the paint, pressed firmly and struck with a hammer.

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