Lungta, usually in the form of colorful paper or flags, have block-printed prayers, mantras, animals and other auspicious symbols imprinted on them. "Lung" means wind or space signifying universal foundation and omni pervasiveness. "Ta" refers to the greatest speed at which the horse can travel. Together, Lungta connotes the swift delivery of messages and blessings to all sentient beings vis-à-vis the incredible strength of the horse and force of the wind.
The more prevalent symbols in a Lungta include 5 animals. The precious horse, adorned with a flaming wish-fulfilling jewel on its back, represents the air element and the swiftness in which one's misfortune can change and aspirations fulfilled. The Garuda or the great bird, depicted with flaming horns soaring high in the sky, represents the fire element. The dragon who is said to live under the sea represents the water element. The lion that roams the mountains symbolizes earth while the tiger, a wild animal in the forest, symbolizes the wood element.
The flag as a whole is also a representation of the body, speech and mind of the Buddha. The flag itself as the Buddha body, the mantras/ prayers printed as the Buddha speech and the meaning of the prayers as the Buddha mind.
The practice of releasing lungta began with an Indian King who caught a mysterious disease. He consulted several doctors but none of them were able to cure him. Finally, he approached Buddha for his advice. Buddha saw that the king's condition was a result of the obstacles given to him by other sentient beings (as differentiated from obstacles that one acquires because of one's own negative actions). Buddha advised that the only cure was for the king to go to the top of a mountain and with full faith, release 100,000 lungtas. There are sentient beings who do not encounter the Dharma (Buddha's teachings) because they do not have the karma (fate/destiny) to hear or read the Dharma. So in releasing these prayer lungta, one creates the karma for others to know and be in the Dharma. The merits accumulated from this positive action is attributed to the person who released the lungtas.
The benefits of releasing lungta include the following:
Before releasing the lungta, a smoke puja/ritual is done in the morning to invite mountain, land spirits, local gods, nagas. After the smoke puja, the lungta is dispersed from the top of a mountain, sea or any clean high place with wind blowing so that the prayer flaglets could fly high and spread wide. As the lungta is scattered by the winds, blessings upon blessings are shared with all sentient beings.