Last week, I went to Macleod Ganj, near Dharamshala, in the state of Himachal Pradesh in northern India. It was quite a trip! After the long journey from Delhi, our first outing was a walk on the path that takes you around the base of the hill that holds the residence of the Dalai Lama. No, we did not see him but supposedly he was at home. It was a beautiful, sunny afternoon and the hillside was covered in color--mani stones and prayer flags.
Since I found the mani stones and prayer flags so beautiful and I realized that I really knew nothing about them, when I got home I looked them up. Here's what I found: mani stones are rocks that have the Tibetan mantra, om mani padme hum, which translates to "hail to the jewel in the lotus" (at least that's what wikipedia tells me). They are placed along roads, paths or rivers as an offering to the spirits of place. Then I found out from the British Museum website (museum) that saying the mantra is "an invocation of Mahavidya, the great goddess of knowledge. This magical sound is believed to reverberate throughout the entire universe as the triumphant power of freedom." The triumphant power of freedom, that sounds so nice.
And as for the prayer flags, they are decorated with auspicious symbols, mantras and prayers. They are supposed to bring happiness and prosperity to the person who hangs it and are placed outside so that the wind can carry the prayers across the countryside.
Near the end of the walk, there was a small wooden structure with this sign above: