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Hinduism

Last modified: 2004-02-14 by rob raeside
Keywords: flag | religion | hinduism | nepal | swastika | gratitude flags | om |
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I heard something in a TV report (made by Finnish TV YLE in Nepal) about flags of Hindu gods. This one (we only saw the flag pole, I could not see the flag itself) was raised to commemorate the visit of a God in disguise, who is told to have come down on a Nepalese valley to steal flowers and bring them back as a gift to his mother, then was captured by village people, etc. The point is that nowadays, Nepalese people use such flags in their major celebrations, and this does not seem to be mere decorative banners. One flag is associated with one God. Does anybody know more about this?
Thanh-Tâm Lê, 15 October 1998

The bitriangular Flags of Hindu Gods are named dhvajas. Some descriptions are contained in the Hindu Epic literature (Mahabharata and Ramayana). Today we can see frequently the red dhvaja an the white dhvaja respectively in the summit of a shaiva (shivaite) or a vaishnava (vishnuite) temple.
Alessandro Grossato, 15 October 1998

As a Hindu I can safely say that the swastika is a Hindu symbol and has been used for a very, very long time. It could also be used by Buddhists, I suppose as their religion has it's origin in ours. On the question of use of the swastika I can tell you that it can frequently be seen in Hindu places of worship in India and in the UK however I have never seen it on a flag during my trip to India in 1993.
Nitesh Dave, 10 February 1999

[Hindu flag]                     [Hindu flag]

My personal observations during the last part of my recent trip to India support and supplemenet Nitesh's statement. The primary aim of our trip was Ladakh and Zanskar, the Tibetan Buddhist areas in Jammu-and-Kashmir state (North-West of India). We left Ladakh through the Rohtang Pass (c. 4,900 m a.s.l.) road and spent one day in the hill station of Manali, in Himachal Pradesh state, then moved to Kalka, in Haryana state, and finally took the express train to New Delhi via the cities of Chandigarh and Ambala.

There were several Hinduist temples and shrines along the road and railway. Nearly all of them were topped with one or more red triangular flags. Such flags were also seen inside the temples, put on a long hoist vertically placed along a wall (e.g. in Rohtang Pass and Hambala temple in Manali). A small rectangular sacrifice area outside the Hambala temple in Manali was delimited with such a flag in each corner. All of the flags had silver fringe, and several of them were charged either with writings in ? (Hindi, Sanskrit, Pali) or more commonly with a swastika. All charges were in silver - I shall insist, not in white, but in silver.

In Ladakh and Zanskar, the swastika can also be seen on paintings in Buddhist monasteries, but its use is not very frequent. As Nitesh pointed it out above, it is probably the re-use by Buddhists of a pre-existing Hindu symbol.
Ivan Sache, 25 August 2001


Gratitude Flags

The TV program "Faut pas rever" (France3) told the story of a "bhopa", a healer, living in a small village of Rajasthan. The "bhopa" was once bitten by a cobra but survived. Following this event, he was considered as a "bhopa" and lives in a small house close to a temple dedicated to the Hindu snake god. The roof of the temple is crowned with several flags, which are gratitude flags. Every time the "bhopa" heals someone or an animal, the healed person or the animal owner must show his gratitude by bringing a flag. These rectangular flags are clearly homemade and seem to show extensive variations around a basic pattern. Most of them are horizontally divided in several brightly coloured stripes. Charges such as zigzags, symbols or letters are often added to the stripes.

I don't know if this use is specific of Rajasthan. I have seen myself Hindu temples in other Indian states (Jammu & Kashmir, Himachal Pradesh), in which only red or saffron triangular flags, often charged with letters or a swastika, were placed inside the temple or hoisted over it. However, I have not seen forests of striped flags on the temple roofs.
Ivan Sache, 30 May 2003


Prayer flags

[Hindu flag] by Olivier Touzeau

The most frequently seen flags [in part of Mauritius] are Hindu prayer flags, generally triangular and red, sometimes with white inscriptions and more rarely with a hanuman, which are often flown on little temples in the gardens of private citizens. I tried to locate this white inscription on Internet, and found it, with many other interesting images of what are claimed to be religious and prayer flags of various religions. See it at http://www.lamafoundation.org/Flagmountain.htm (choose page 3, bottom of the page). It is the "Hindi Om - Sanskrit seed syllable, the universal sound of creation."
Olivier Touzeau, 18 December 2003

I have seen lots of similar red Hindu triangular flags flown on little temples in the gardens of citizens in Fiji Islands Dec 2002.
Nozomi Kariyasu, 18 December 2003

[Om symbol]by António Martins-Tuválkin

This character, ॐ (#2384) as given in the popular computer font Arial Unicode MT.
António Martins-Tuválkin, 6 January 2004

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