The Spiritual Elements of Nepal’s Prayer Flags

by Guest Blogger, Sherpa Adventure Gear Thursday, May 16th 2019
Prayer flags

Seen everywhere in the mountains, valleys and sacred sites of Nepal, prayer flags are a symbol of peace, goodwill and compassion. Originating in Tibet, early versions of prayer flags were used in battle. But as time passed, the flags came to take on more spiritual meaning.

Each of the five colors are always arranged from left to right in a specific order – blue, white, red, green and yellow – and represent the five elements: sky, air, fire, water and earth.

Prayer flags
Each flag color represents one of the five elements.
Lung Ta

Lung Ta (horizontal) prayer flags, pictured above, are square or rectangular shaped and commonly hung on a diagonal line between two objects in high places, such as the tops of temples, monasteries, stupas or mountain passes. Darchor (vertical) prayer flags, pictured below, are usually large, single rectangles attached to poles along their vertical edge.

statue of Tenzing Norgay
Darchor prayer flags frame a statue of Tenzing Norgay near the village of Namche Bazaar in Nepal.

Over time, as the flags weather the elements, the bright colors of the flags fade to white. New prayer flags are hung alongside the old, acknowledging life’s continuous cycle. It is disrespectful to place flags on the ground or to use them as clothing. To dispose of old prayer flags, they traditionally are burned, so that the smoke can carry their blessings to all.

Prayer flags
As prayer flags are exposed to the elements, their colors fade. This process symbolizes a welcoming of life’s changes and an acknowledgement of a greater, ongoing cycle.

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The Authors

Dave BakerDave Baker

I'm Dave Baker, founder of Summit Hut, an independent outdoor retailer based in Tucson, Arizona since 1969. As an experienced and passionate hiker, climber and backpacker, my blog is intended to be an informative and interesting look into the outdoors and the outdoor industry.

Dana Davis

Dana Davis

I’m Dana Davis, co-owner of the Summit Hut. I mostly enjoy hiking and road biking though I often do other things to keep it interesting (mountaineering, motorcycling, backpacking, climbing, you name it!) My biggest challenge is sometimes finding the balance between career, family, and fun but it’s working out so far!

Dan Davis

Dan Davis

I'm Dan Davis, after retiring from the National Park Service as a Ranger and manager, I worked for the Summit Hut until 2009, then retired for good (maybe). I'm now spending my time traveling around the southwest writing and working on my nature and fine art photography business.

Emily Gindlesparger

Emily Gindlesparger

I’m Emily Gindlesparger, a member of the Summit Hut floor staff. Since moving here from the Midwest, I’ve been taking advantage of all possible adventures in Arizona: rock climbing, mountain biking, backpacking, whitewater kayaking, caving and trail running; I’m always excited to see what’s next!