Tibetan prayer flags are bright and beautiful, but their colours are not just for show and look cool. Prayer flags are made of block-printed fabric using traditional printing techniques going back hundreds of years. All colours are meant to represent an element: blue represents the sky, white represents the air, and red symbolizes fire, green representing water and yellow representing the earth. Together all 5 clours signify balance.
Contrary to popular belief, prayer flags do not carry prayers to gods, but rather the mantras printed on the flags are carried on the wind and believed to spread goodwill and positive energy and promote peace, strength, compassion and wisdom.
There are two types of prayer flags: Lung - ta, The Wind Horse, square shaped, horizontally strung prayer flags and Darchok, vertically strung prayer flags.
The Wind Horse or Lung-ta is the most prevalent symbol used on prayer flags. In the centre of the prayer flag is a powerful horse (lung-ta) bearing three flaming jewels on its back. These jewels represent the Buddha, the Dharma (Buddhist teachings), and the Sangha (Buddhist community) which are the three cornerstones of Tibetan philosophical tradition. The horse (Ta) is a symbol of speed and the transformation of bad fortune to good fortune.
You don't have to be a Buddhist to hang prayer flags, but there is a right way to hang them.
While stringing your flags up wherever you choose to display them, it's important to keep good, selfless motivations in mind, in keeping with the flags' ultimate purpose, which is spreading positivity far and wide.
Tibetan tradition considers prayer flags to be holy. The flags contain sacred texts and symbols and should be treated respectfully. They should not be placed on the ground or put in the trash.
You may also choose to let your old prayer flags fade and disintegrate naturally, hanging new prayer flags up with old ones. The contrast between old and new prayer flags is a reminder of impermanence and the continuing cycle of birth and death.