The Indian Sutras, originally written on cloth banners, were transmitted to other regions of the world as prayer flags. Legend ascribes the origin of the prayer flag to the Shakyamuni Buddha, whose prayers were written on battle flags used by the devas against their adversaries, the asuras. The legend may have given the Indian bhikku a reason for carrying the heavenly banner as a way of signifying his commitment to ahimsa. This knowledge was carried into Tibet by 800 CE, and the actual flags were introduced no later than 1040 CE, where they were further modified. The Indian monk Atisha (980 – 1054 CE) introduced the Indian practice of printing on cloth prayer flags to Tibet and Nepal.
During the Cultural Revolution, prayer flags were discouraged but not entirely eliminated. Many traditional designs may have been lost. Currently, different styles of prayer flags can be seen all across the Tibetan region.
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