The praying cylinders of Thibet
Artist: Simpson, William (1823-1899)
This chromolithograph is taken from plate 26 of William Simpson's 'India: Ancient and Modern'. Buddhist prayer-wheels are rotating cylinders of varying size containing pieces of paper with prayers ('mantras') written or printed on them. The cylinders revolve clockwise, the direction of the sun's movement around the earth, and the prayers are supposed to ascend into the skies, merging with the natural order and enriching it for the benefit of all. The cylinders may be turned by the push of a hand, by turning a handle, or in the case of larger ones, by water, as seen here.