October 17, 2021

Fluttering and dancing in the breeze

ten thousand saw I at a glance / tossing their heads in sprightly dance / Buddhist prayer flags…

Flags

Everywhere I turn in Sikkim, the prayer flags. Red and yellow and white. Some old and faded, some new and bright. But all of them confident of their place under the Sikkimese sun.

Wikipedia saysTraditionally, prayer flags are used to promote peace, compassion, strength, and wisdom. The flags do not carry prayers to ‘gods,’ a common misconception, rather the Tibetans believe the prayers and mantras will be blown by the wind to spread the good will and compassion into all pervading space. Therefore, prayer flags are thought to bring benefit to all.

Early in the morning at Lachung village in North Sikkim – it is bright by 4 a.m. – as we are walking lazily on this tiny bridge, mother and son walk up briskly, the mother holding the flags rolled under her arms. She sits by the side and unrolls the long strip and they both carry it to a convenient place somewhere in the middle of the bridge.

Walking

Climbing

As we watch, the boy clambers up the metal railings with practiced ease and starts tying up the flags. The mother, far from being concerned (atleast apparently) stands down and barks out orders in am imperious tone. It is important to get it right… move to the right, tie it harder… (I assume from the way her hands dance along with the flags; she is speaking in the local language)

Working

Directing

The boy sits on top of the bridge, the Teesta in one of her more placid points flowing way under him, balanced on a thin strip of metal. Faith has been known to make people do stranger and more dangerous things…

On top

Now, back in Bombay, I sit typing this, in a mood that is certainly vacant and pensive, thinking back on the two weeks in Sikkim…
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude…

Buddhist prayer flags

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