The Journey

Prayer Wheel

  • 52
  • Tibet
  • 19th century
  • Silver set with jade, turquoise, rubies, and shell
  • H. 9 1/4 x W. 2 3/8 in. (23.5 x 6 cm)
  • Newark Museum, Gift of Dr. Wesley Halpert and Mrs. Carolyn M. Halpert, 1984, 84.406a–f

The prayer wheel (mani 'khor lo in Tibetan) is distinct to Tibetan Buddhist practice. Printed or handwritten prayers—often including the mantra om mani padme hum, invocation of Avalokiteshvara, bodhisattva of compassion—are tightly packed into the barrel of the wheel. Spinning the prayer wheel activates the text within, dispersing thousands of mantras with every revolution. Several texts detail the numerous benefits of Avalokiteshvara's mantra, from improving one's chances for a superior rebirth to protection from disease and perils. This and the other sumptuous example in this case are lag 'khor, literally, "hand wheel."

PHOTO CREDIT: Richard Goodbody, Newark Museum

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