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The Tibetan Prayer Wheel House offers visitors a tangible experience of a common feature of Tibetan culture. The turning of prayer wheels is a practice for developing compassion, central to Tibetan Buddhism. The Prayer Wheel House was traditionally manufactured in the Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist Monastery in southern Scotland.

What do prayer wheels mean to Tibetan Buddhists?

Unique to Tibetan Buddhism, prayer wheels of all sizes are used throughout the Tibetan cultural world by individuals of every social rank and status. The turning of the wheels activates the blessing of the mantras within, creating good karma and removing obstacles to enlightenment for the benefit of all beings. Each clockwise revolution releases the mantras and is equivalent to reciting the same number of mantras within the prayer wheel.

Mani lag khor (hand prayer wheel), circular silver case embossed with Tibetan script, with printed prayers inside, with metal weight hanging from chain, rotating on wooden handle, used by Tibetan Buddhists to release prayers into the air: Tibet, Lhasa, 19th century AD. (A.1909.442)

Planning the Prayer Wheel House

Over the course of 2008 and 2009, a series of meetings between the museum and the monastery had taken place to discuss the design, ornamentation, and materials to be used, as well as the size and number of the prayer wheels. During the design phase, designer and Buddhist, Yeshe Palmo, worked together with Mark Bradley, one of the Buddhist craftsmen at Kagyu Samye Ling, who drew several sketches of proposed prayer wheel designs before one was finally agreed on with the museum.

Five bronze cylinders adorned with dense Tibetan script threaded with poles into the centre of a vivid red and gold house-shaped structure.

Early concept sketch for the Prayer Wheel House.

Closeup of a bottom corner of the prayer wheel house, with a rainbow of colours painted on in geometric patterns. A tube of paint lies on the ground.

Painting the Prayer Wheel House.

Inside the Prayer Wheel House

Inside each prayer wheel cylinder is a tightly wound roll of printed mantras. Mantras are short Buddhist invocations of several syllables. Each of the 1,400 paper sheets within each cylinder is printed with about 23,000 of these mantras. This means that each cylinder contains 32,200,000 printed mantras!

In order to be effective, the consecration of the mantra sheets required a blessing. Yeshe Palmo and Mark Bradley – Tibetan Buddhists from Kagyu Samye Ling – sprinkled saffron water and consecration substance on every sheet of the mantras. The consecrated sheets were then wrapped tightly around the central axis of the cylinders, before being inserted into the cylinders. Finally the cylinders were sealed and another Buddhist, Akong Rinpoche, blessed the prayer wheels.

Wrapping the sheets around the axis and pulling a cover over the roll.

Creating the Tibetan prayer wheel house

In this film, Buddhists from Tibet and from the Samye Ling monastery talk more about the prayer wheel tradition, and how our prayer wheel house was made.

Fact file


2008 - 2009

Made in

Kagyu Samye Ling Buddhist Monastery Scotland, Eskdalemuir (housing), Nepal (prayer wheels)

Made from

Steel, wood, resin, acrylic, copper, paper


Height 1.95 m, length 2.87

Museum reference


On display

Living Lands, Level 1, National Museum of Scotland

Did you know?

Each of the prayer wheel's cylinders contains 32,200,000 printed mantras, or prayers

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