Prayer Flags


Prayer flags have adorned the Town of Telluride during the annual Mountainfilm festival since the first-ever Moving Mountains Symposium was dedicated to the Tibetan people's struggle for freedom in 1994. We acknowledge that prayer flags are a long-standing and intrinsic part of Tibetan culture and continue today to be used to send prayers of peace and well-being to all beings. The meaning of this Tibetan custom aligns with Mountainfilm’s culture and values, and so, since 1994, prayer flags have been an important part of the festival.  


Prayer flags originate from the Bön tradition in Tibet, where they are hung to remove obstacles and bring good fortune. Later with the advent of Buddhism, the practice of offering prayer flags was adapted with the printing of specific Buddhist prayers. The offering of prayer flags is now a common practice across Tibet and the Himalayan region. This practice has led to the transmission of Buddhist prayers printed on cloth to the rest of the world. 


Prayer flags or thar-cho (Tibetan: དར་ལྕོག་) are printed in five colors – blue for the sky, white for air/wind, red for fire, green for water and yellow for earth – and are traditionally woodblock-printed with sacred images and texts. The center of the flag often depicts a lungta (Tibetan: རླུང་རྟ་) meaning wind horse, a symbol of speed and transformation of bad fortune to good, bearing three jewels on its back that represent the Buddha, Buddhist teachings and the Buddhist community. Images of four sacred animals – dragon, garuda, tiger and snow lion – can appear in the corners. Covering the rest of the flag are versions of many mantras (powerful ritual prayers) and prayers for peace and harmony.

Tibetan and Himalayan peoples believe that when the wind moves the flags, blessings, good will and compassion are spread. Eventually, the prints fade and the prayers become part of the universe. They are sacred, and so, are not discarded but are allowed to return to nature or sometimes burned.  Thar-cho are not used for any purpose other than its traditionally intended meaning.

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