The khata symbolizes purity and compassion and is worn or presented with incense at many ceremonial occasions, including births, weddings, funerals, graduations and the arrival or departure of guests. When given as a farewell gesture it symbolizes a safe journey. When given to arriving guests it symbolizes welcome. They were usually made of silk but now much more commonly cotton or polyester. Tibetan khatas are usually white, symbolising the pure heart of the giver, though it is quite common to find yellow-gold khata as well. Tibetan, Nepali, and Bhutanese khatas feature the ashtamangala. There are also special multi-colored khatas. Mongolian khatas are usually blue, symbolizing the blue sky. In Mongolia, khatas are also often tied to ovoos, stupas, or special trees and rocks.
Tibetan people used to give animal skins as gifts because there was no silk in Tibet. According to the Bon historical record, people would put sheep wool around their necks during the time of the ninth king, Degong Jayshi, and head for some religious rituals. This tradition was passed down from that moment onwards. People began making scarves and using silk over time. So, the scarf replaced the plain sheep’s wool and people put scarves on the neck and head.
^Das, Sarat Chandra (1902). Rockhill., William Woodville (ed.). Journey to Lhasa and Central Tibet. London: Royal Geographical Society. p. 32. OCLC557688339. ... handing him a scarf (khatag), I expressed the hope that we might meet next year.
^"Ethnic Culture Thrives After Sichuan Quake". China Daily. Chengdu: China Daily. 2012-05-10. Archived from the original on 6 March 2018. Retrieved 2012-05-15. The 19-year-old Tibetan woman says she enjoys working as a guide at the site, where she also sells Katak, a white flaxen scarf the Tibetans present with respect, incense and other religious items.