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Our Stories | Mexicali Blues Blog — mexicali travels




When the tradition of hanging Tibetan prayer flags began more than 2000 years ago, Tibet was ruled by warlords who carried their own flags into battle. The native people took this as their inspiration but spun the intent on its axis when they made their own flags to honor the nature gods of Bon, their shamanistic religion. They used four colors to represent the four elements: blue for sky or space, red for fire, green for water, and yellow for earth. They believed these flags would carry blessings on the wind to anyone nearby, so they took to hanging them over mountain passes and rivers to benefit all who passed underneath.

In the 7th century, Buddhism largely took the place of Bon, absorbing many of its characteristics including the flags, and bringing the new ideals of peace and compassion. The early prayer flags displayed both Buddhist prayers and pictures of the fierce Bon gods who they believed protected Buddha. Over the next 200 years, Buddhist monks began to print their own mantras and symbols on the flags as prayers for peace, prosperity, wisdom, and compassion to be sent out into the world with each breeze.

Carly exploring a market in Nepal under a canopy of prayer flags!

Our traditional Tibetan prayer flags are inscribed with these symbols and words that are said to carry prayers and hopes into the breeze and across the lands. The words on the prayer flags are a combination of mantra, sutra, and prayer. They aren’t directly translatable into English, as each mantra is an expression of an intention, energy, and the vibration of the sound. You might say that their inner meanings are beyond words.


A mantra is a powerful word or set of words with the capacity of influencing certain dimensions of energy. It is said that the vibration of mantras can control the invisible energies that govern existence. It’s the sound and the utterance of it that is said to have those powers, even without thinking about or necessarily understanding exactly what it is you’re saying. Buddhist monks will repeat a mantra over and over as a form of meditation, and a way of sending that energy out into the world. Similarly, the prayer flags send that energy out just by being hung!

One mantra that is on most prayer flags is OM MANI PADME HUM, which is the mantra of the bodhisattva of compassion. Printed on prayer flags, this mantra sends blessings of compassion to the world. Sutras are prose texts based on the words of the historical Buddha who taught in India 2500 years ago. One sutra often seen on prayer flags is the dharani. Similar to mantras, dharanis contain magical formulas that are comprised of symbolic letters and pieces of words. Read out of context, they make very little sense, but when on the flags they convey the essence of a teaching or a specific state of mind. Text on the flags beyond mantras and sutras can be classified as prayers, and they include supplications, aspirations, and positive wishes written by various masters of Buddhism throughout history.

In a nutshell, the words on prayer flags are all about sharing good vibes with the world! 


Prayer flags may be hung indoors, but they are designed to be strung up outside where the wind will disperse their messages if you choose to do so. Today, there are still prayer flags hanging up all over Nepal with this intention. After some time the flags will fade and fray, symbolizing the natural passing of all things. It is believed that when prayer flags fade and blow away thread by thread, the prayers become a permanent part of the universe. Every time you look at prayer flags, let them remind you to continue to send out your own prayers for peace and kindness in the world. As you do so, you will benefit from their blessings as well!

Mexicali Blues owners, Pete and Kim, in Nepal!

What does all the Sanskrit writing on your prayer flags mean? We have a whole separate post about it here!




Meet Nyoman, the talented woman behind many of our hand painted batik designs! Join the Mexicali Blues owners, Pete and Kim, as Nyoman takes us on a tour of her workplace and shows us how her gorgeous one of a kind textiles are crafted. In this video she walks us through the process of creating a hand painted sarong - a popular item we’ve carried for many years.

Thinking back, Kim muses, “I remember when we discovered Nyoman, we were on a motorbike headed to a market outside of town and I spied some great hand painted chakra flags and wall hangings. I made Pete turn around!

Carly, Nyoman, and Kim in Bali.

Carly, Nyoman, and Kim in 2018.

‚ÄúUpon entering Nyoman‚Äôs shop we were greeted with a huge smile and welcomed as if we had been working with her for years. We started with a small order, which was no problem for her because she knew that her quality and attention to detail would keep us coming back with more and more orders. Nyoman‚Äôs beautiful smile and personality radiates happiness, kindness, and a feeling of being in the ‚Äėnow‚Äô.‚ÄĚ

With so many talented artists in Bali and everywhere our team travels to, we have one simple rule when it comes to who we choose to work with. If they’re smiling and in good spirits, then we know it’s the right match. We instantly could tell that Nyoman and her family would be the makers we wanted to collaborate with when we met her about ten years ago in the market we almost zoomed right past.


And thank goodness we did turn around that day! With over 30 years of experience in batiking, Nyoman has helped us design one of a kind pieces and she even helps us pick out colors‚Äďwhich can be so difficult when they‚Äôre all SO gorgeous! She has a certain way of making you feel that you are the only one that matters, even though you know she has many other buyers she is creating for.

The hand painting of all her textiles is all done at her family compound in Ubud. Families in Bali usually live communally with extended family all living close by. You can see in the video that their home is beautiful and filled with joy. Their deity is established in the center of the courtyard and watches over all of them and offers protection and good fortune.

See what we have available from Nyoman’s shop right now!



Narrated by Mexicali Blues owner Pete Erskine and filmed by son Chauncey, this short travel video offers an insider look at the making of block print tapestry wall hangings in Jaipur, India. We take you with us through the crafting and buying process that goes into block print tapestries, bags, quilts, and more--traveling from their inception in India all the way to Mexicali Blues in Maine and then off to decorating your home in the most beautiful bohemian ways!

Aside from looking groovy, these unique textiles have a rich history in India, and are still produced using handmade dyeing and printing techniques that make each piece a subtly individual work of art! Although the younger generations of textile artists in India are shifting their focus to less labor-intensive screenprinting, the artisans who create our India print tapestries and accessories are keeping tradition alive through hand-dyeing and block-printing.

We travel frequently to India and other far-flung locales, importing responsibly through creating and maintaining long-term and mutually beneficial relationships with the artisans and families who create our merchandise. We are proud to offer tapestries, reversible block print bags, bohemian scarves, and other cool decor and fashion items that are created using block printing and other awesome traditional techniques! 


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