Our visit to Sikkim in December 2014 was the first time we had set foot in the North-Eastern parts of India. Everything appeared new, interesting and yes, fascinating. No matter how much we had read or seen photographs of, it was still a ‘First Experience’, and one that we shall always remember. Before I begin my detailed posts on the stories and memories I have brought back, let me show you just what fascinated us the most…. Prayer Flags and Prayer Wheels!
The Prayer Flags were prominent on the roads as soon as we entered the hills in Darjeeling. I had read that the colours all have a significance, and while it is believed that they pass on our prayers to the Gods, the actual concept is to spread the virtue of the prayer in the wind, and circulate it among the people. The concept was great, but seeing the brightly coloured flags fluttering in the wind was even better!
They lined the paths to houses and monasteries, formed a fence to small lakes and ponds, fluttered atop a convenient tree, and elaborate ones even graced the flagpole of monasteries. I wished I could read and understand the prayers written on them!
The Prayer Wheels were even more fascinating, especially since we could actually turn them! Again, we already knew that there were prayers etched inside, and turning one was equivalent to saying the prayer aloud. The idea was so interesting, of praying without a sound! No wonder these hills were so serene!
The variety of prayer wheels was even more interesting – some with the syllables of the prayer written in decorative script, some with embossing, some with figures! Visiting monastery after monastery, it soon became a game for Samhith, who rushed to turn every prayer wheel in sight! I don’t think prayer has ever been so much fun for him!
At one of the monasteries we visited, we saw this sheet, stuck on the pillar supporting the prayer wheels. It explains the meaning and the effect of the syllables which make up the prayer inside the wheels.
It only emphasizes the fact that mere turning isn’t enough. It is necessary to understand it too. Turning the wheel can only be a beginning. But the mere fact of turning signifies a hope – of change, of better times.