Prayer flags are made of coarse cotton and placed in strategic places in the belief that the wind will carry the invocations and the messages on the flag down the rivers and valleys into the beyond.
Redi and Khorlo
Prayer flags are raised on a pole that has the Redi and the Khorlo at the top. The Redi, a wood carving in the shape of a traditional knife, forms the apex of the flag. It is held together by the Khorlo, a carved wooden wheel. The Redi represents the god of wisdom and Khorlo the lotus, birthplace of Guru Rinpoche.
Types of Flags
The Goendhars are the smallest flags hung on the top of the houses to invoke the protection of the guardian deity of the Bhutanese, Mahakala. The Goendhar is a plain white strip of cloth with yellow, red, green and blue stripes running across it – representing the various deities and elements.
The Lungdhar and the Manidhar line the ridges and other high grounds. Both have the religious text printed on them. The Lungdhar or the wind flag is raised by a person for the invocation of the gods, for good luck, on release from an illness or misfortune or as prayer and gratitude for an achievement or any other reasons. The Manidhar flag acts as prayers for the departed – for cleansing their sins.
The largest flags are the Lhadhars or god flags – these can be seen outside dzongs and other important places and represents victory over evil.
The five colors of the flags symbolize the five elements. The Air element or Chakham is represented by white and symbolizes good luck. The Fire element or Mei is represented by red, Water or Chudam by blue, Tree or Shingham by green and Earth or Sa by yellow.