Bhutan is a spiritually shaped country. Most people are deeply religious Buddhists who practise their faith visibly. Already at the landing approach to the international airport of Bhutan you can see first signs. In the wind fluttering prayer flags adorn the slopes of the Paro valley and welcome the people.
Prayer flags have a tradition of many centuries and go back to the pre-Buddhist culture of Bön. The mantras which are printed on the flags should bring e.g. happiness, wisdom, peace or even health. The wind, blowing through the flags, carries the prayers out into the world. Therefore, they are preferably suspended at particularly exposed places such as bridges, mountain passes and peaks but they are also seen near houses. On hikes to mountain monasteries they point the way, so that it can even be seen from the valley. The colourful flags shape the image of Bhutan. Looking carefully at them you will be aware that they are available in five colours. Each colour represents an element – blue symbolizes the sky, white the air, red fire, green water and yellow the earth. When they hang together on a cord, this is the right colour sequence. Sometimes, however, there are also single-coloured prayer flags. For a deceased person, for example, 108 white long vertical flags should be hoisted on poles. Moreover, the careful handling of prayer flags is very important. They should always be treated with a great deal of respect. Therefore, you should never step over prayer flags. And when they become frayed through the wind so that the mantras cannot be read completely, they must not simply be thrown away, but you should burn them.