Nepal's historic Boudhanath Stupa swaps synthetic prayer flags with biodegradable ones

Nepal's Boudhanath stupa was decorated with biodegradable prayer flags as devotees replaced the synthetic ones

Step towards a greener alternative

Taking one step towards a greener alternative, Nepal's Boudhanath stupa was decorated with biodegradable prayer flags as devotees replaced the synthetic ones. 

For the unversed, colourful prayer flags are an integral part of Buddhist rituals. These flags have auspicious symbols and prayers inscribed on them. 

The prayer flags were made of natural fibres like cotton and silk traditionally, however, synthetic material became popular in recent times. 


Boudhanath stupa

The white-domed Boudhanath stupa is in Nepal's capital Kathmandu and one of the holiest pilgrimage sites in Tibetan Buddhism. 

Its massive mandala makes it one of the largest spherical stupas not just in Nepal, but the world. 


Prayer flags

For the beautiful prayer flags, sherpa uses cotton and prints prayers and symbols on her flags with water-based paint. The ropes are made of natural fibres instead of nylon. 


'Will send a good message'

The flags were swapped on Saturday (December 18) to send a good and positive message as the workers discarded the usual polyester banners and put new biodegradable ones.

Chandra Man Lama, the chair of the Boudhanath Area Development Committee, told AFP, "It is the centre of Buddhist religious faith so I believe that it will send a good message and spread in other places too." 


Prayer flags bring good fortune

Prayer flags and khadas - Buddhist scarves used as a greeting or offering - are also popular fixtures in mountaineering, with climbers carrying them for good fortune and offering them at the summit.

Mountain guide Dawa Yangzum Sherpa took biodegradable flags on her recent expedition to the 5,630-metre (18,471-foot) Yalung Ri peak in eastern Nepal. 


What happens to the old flags?

Old prayer flags are usually burnt when discarded. It is believed that the winds will carry the prayers to the gods. The flags, which are made from synthetic materials emit toxic gases when burnt. 

"The prayers might be answered but it is also causing pollution," said Ang Dolma Sherpa, founder of Utpala Crafts, which made the biodegradable prayer flags now adorning Boudhanath stupa.


Step in the right direction

In the era of the climate crisis, such steps pave the way for the world to understand the importance of a greener future. 

It is also setting a good example of keeping the tourists spots clean and pollution free. 


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