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Tibetan mini prayer flag as vehicle accesory by Sangmo

Tibetan prayer flag

18 February 2016

While cultural assimilation taking place in China occupied Tibet is one of our major contention, the cross adoption of cultural mores in India and other exile diaspora is not analyzed as widely. China’s brutal occupation of Tibet in 1959 that drove His Holiness the XIV Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetans  into exile ensued more than just the spread of Tibetan Buddhism to a niche global audience. In the process of adaptation, certain symbols of Tibetan religion and culture took off and gained more grounds than others like the adoption of momo eating culture. A recent trend we  have all noticed is the use of Tibetan prayer flag as interior car accessory strung across inside the rear window of thousands of cars on the streets of Delhi, Shimla, Dharamshala and everywhere. It is also common to come across bike enthusiast embarking on tours to have their cruiser bike handles decorated with the smaller size Tibetan prayer flag. The frequency of such cars that I spotted on my trip to Shimla few weeks ago had me musing on the phenomena. On the face of it,  it seem as if the perennial prayer of the Buddhist to have the Buddha dharma spread far and wide is getting answered as prayer flag is an important symbol of Tibetan Buddhism. Yet, we must step up to capitalize on opportunities such phenomena presents and ensure that they are accompanied by right narrative versus letting it be. Sometimes, widespread incorporation of certain cultural mores could usher in the end of it by inadvertent changes in meaning and symbolism that occur in the process, grateful to have survived. The prayer flag in Tibet is strung high on the mountain peaks, roofs and trees as the Tibetan people believe that the wind that passes over the surface of the flags  gets  sanctified by the mantras and spreads good will and compassion into all pervading space. As the images fade from exposure to the elements, it becomes part of the universe. Tibetans usually hoist new prayer flag of varying size during Losar (Tibetan New Year). The new ones are strung alongside the older ones and really old ones are burned, not disposed. It is also a common practice in Tibet and Tibetan refugee settlement like Ladakh to hoist  lungta(luck) prayer flags on mountain before important life events to garner luck. Monasteries and households in Tibet also erects vertical prayer flag in the courtyard like the one below. Prayer flag can have different […]

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