The Windhorse (དར་ལྕོག) is a symbol of basic goodness that is thought to possess powerful energy. This energy carries colossal power in the lives of all beings who come into contact with the wind of goodness. Windhorse, a legendary Tibetan creature, is considered to carry prayers from the earth to the heavenly gods using its strength and wind speed.

Windhorse Prayer Flags

The ‘Windhorse’, also known as Lung-ta in Tibetan, coupled with the “Wish Fulfilling Jewel of Enlightenment” is an important symbol inscribed onto Tibetan prayer flags. Although it represents good fortune and luck, it has a much deeper meaning which says it has power that can influence events in nature and society.

Windhorse prayer flags are the most common prayer flags among Buddhists. The image of the Windhorse is drawn on the center of the prayer flag while the outside corners are guarded by the four great animals (Four Dignities): garuda (wisdom), dragon (gentle power), tiger (confidence) and snow lion (fearless joy). These guardian animals can be represented in either pictorial form or as a written word. There are also inscriptions of sutras or mantras on the flag. It is said that when the Windhorse prayer flags flap in the wind, the spiritual powers of the sacred images and scriptures spread benefiting all those in the surroundings.

Putting on Windhorse prayer flags not only raises one’s Lung-ta energy and raises good opportunities but is also considered an act of merit. Prayer flags are hung from high points such as trees, eaves, or on wooden poles.

Prayer flags hung to please the spirits and gods, the windhorse will come to read the prayers

History and Significance of Prayer Flags

The history of prayer flags can be traced back to the Bon traditions in pre-Buddhist Tibet when Bonpo priests used colored flags in healing ceremonies. Each color represents a primary element: earth (yellow), fire (red), space (blue), water (green), and air (white). Setup around the sick, these prayer flags created a balance of these five elements in the body producing high levels of mental and physical health. Moreover, these colored flags were hung in mountains, valleys, and lakes to please local gods and to receive their blessings. When the gods and spirits were unhappy, disease and natural disasters were spread.

When Buddhism first came to Tibet, Guru Rinpoche himself wrote scriptures and drew images on prayer flags. Later, in the 15th century, printing by wooden blocks was introduced.  Famous Buddhist masters created prayer flag designs while lay craftsmen engaged in making copies. After the Chinese invasion of Tibet, the hanging of prayer flags was discouraged but the tradition has managed to live on.