Many of you know from reading the entries in my blog that I am enjoying my "entire" experience in India....part of the reason is the exposure to new and exciting things and the opportunity to learn something new everyday.....whether I am working or at play.
This past week I finally took some official "play time" away from work, and Linda and I escaped to a beautiful "hill station"; Mussoorie, India.
We had a lovely time.....it was not only relaxing for both of us....it was an experience that we will cherish for a long time.
I began each day at 5:30am.....many of you may not think that waking up so early is relaxing.....but I couldn't wait to start my day watching the sunrise and then taking a walk.
One such morning walk took me to Happy Valley.....here is a brief history of what put Happy Valley "on the map"....so to speak.In April 1959, after fleeing Chinese occupation of Tibet, the Dalai Lama established the Tibetan Government in Exile in Mussoorie. While I am unsure of how many Tibetan's actually fled and settled in the Happy Valley area of Mussoorie at that time, today more than 5000 Tibetan's live in the area. In 1960, the first Tibetan school was established.....however, the Dalai Lama eventually moved the Government of Tibet in Exile to Dharamsala...in the neighboring state of Himachal Pradesh.
Today, a visit to the area will allow you to explore the culture of Tibet without traveling thousands of kilometers.....the Tibetan culture is alive and well right here in India.....including the practice of hanging Prayer Flags.
Until this trip, I honestly paid very little attention to prayer flags.....I knew they existed, I had seen pictures of them, seen them in movies.....and that was about the extent of my knowledge.While I am certainly not an expert.....I have learned a few things, and can also clear up some common misconceptions about the practice as well.....just from what I have read.
The origins of prayer flags can be traced originally to India....and the practice was later transmitted to other regions of the world; including Tibet. Not all branches of Buddhism recognize the practice of making prayer flags, but they are believed to have originated with Bon, which predated Buddhism in Tibet.
There are two ways of hanging or displaying prayer flags....the practice I was most familiar with was seeing them hung horizontally...square or rectangular pieces of cloth connected along their top edge to a long string or rope.....from high to low between two objects......and typically found in flying high in the mountains. This practice is known as LUNG TA, which means "Wind Horse" in Tibetan.
The other practice is vertical, where large rectangular pieces of cloth are attached to a pole along their longest edge.....this pole is placed in the ground on top of mountains, temples, etc....this practice is known as DARCHOR, which translates to "increase life, fortune, health and wealth to all sentient beings".The colors of the flags also have meaning......each represents one of the five elements.
Blue - symbolizing SKY/SPACE
White - symbolizing AIR/WIND
Red - symbolizing FIRE
Green - symbolizing WATER
Yellow - symbolizing EARTH
They should also be hung along the string in this particular order. However, I do not believe this to be a strict rule, as you will see that in some of the photographs I have taken, this rule has not been followed.
Prayer flags DO NOT carry an "individuals" prayer(s) to the GOD's....a common misconception.....
Prayer flags are deliberately hung in high places so that the "Wind Horse" can carry the blessings printed on the flags to all beings. They are meant to benefit everyone.....not just a single person.
The prayer flags that appear in my photographs are from two sites in Mussoorie....Happy Valley (of course) and the one's that were taken at sunset were taken at what remains of the George Everest Estate.....on another high ridge...just across from Happy Valley.
Enjoy the photographs....but don't miss your own opportunity to
experience the culture of Tibet and Buddhism literally in New Delhi's backyard.