India’s absolute enormity in diversity makes it home to uncountable numbers of vibrant and colourful festivals. While some of these festivals make it to the calendar as national holidays some remain hidden and not quite known to the general public. While these festivals aren’t quite known to the masses, don’t consider them to me less as they are equally grand, charming and have that aura that fills the air with festivity. Confused? Well today I shall discuss about one such unique festival of our Incredible India which is the Hemis Festival of Ladakh.
Hemis Monastery: The Richest Monastery Of Ladakh
Amidst the mighty Himalayan ranges, pristine water of the Indus River flowing downstream and spectacular landscapes is located the richest monastery of Ladakh, The Hemis Monastery. Well this is the location to which the grand Hemis Festival actually belongs. This is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery located in Ladakh which lies in the northern state of Jammu and Kashmir. This monastery is quite legendary and is around 300+ years old. The Hemis Monastery celebrates the Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche and his celestial teachings. The festival is celebrated in the month of June or July every month (9th, 10th and 11th lunar days of the 5th month every summer).
History Of The Hemis Festival
To honor the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet the Hemis Festival is celebrated. Guru Padmasmbhava was also known as Guru Rinpoche. The festival holds great importance doe those who celebrate it, it is also known as Second Buddha. The Hemis Festival is typically celebrated on the Tibetan Lunar month on the 10th day in the Hemis Monastery. This monastery is considered to be the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh.
Top Things To Know About The Hemis Festival
Photo by madpai
Beginning Of The Festival
The ceremony typically begins with a ritual atop the Gompa early in the morning. The rituals begin with the beat of drums and the echoing collides of cymbals and the wail of pipes. The portrait of Guru Padmasambhava is brought forward, post that the devotees take the blessings of the sacred guru.
Grand Display Of Silk Thangka
The celebration is held to honor the Guru, during this celebration there is a grand display of a Silken Thangka of Padmasambhava. This Thangka is about 4 storeys high and is displayed roof of the monastery nearly down to the earth. This silk thangka of Guru Padmasambhava is put on display only during the festival and this is one reason that attracts people in hordes from all over the world. The Thangka is a marvellous silken image which was prepared between 1750-1760 under the guidance of a royal monk who was regarded as the third incarnation of the great Dragon yogi Stagtsang Raspa, known as Gyalras Mipham Tswewang.
Photo by Amiya.Postcrossing
Masked Dance Performances
Masked dance performances are the most special part of the festival. These are mystic mask dances are esoteric of festivities and add a special flavour to the entire celebration. The dances depict the life and activity of Guru Padmasambhava. It is believed that these tantric dances aim to grant good health and pacify disease and also all kinds of negative energies. To sum up in short, the purpose of the masked dances is to spread happiness and peace across each and every individual who visits the Hemis Monastery and see these dances in person. The Mask Dances of Ladakh are also known as Charms Performance. The dances are performed by masked lamas; they perform complex dances, with special music performances and commentaries in front of huge crowds.
Bevy of Locals and Tourist Come to See This Marvelous Show
Well Hemis Festivals is just not visited by the locals of Ladakh but this very festival has been attracting end number of tourist from across the globe. Bevy of locals and tourists are seen making beeline in local buses and cabs to reach the Hemis Monastery. Many travellers stay in camp outside the monastery a night before the festival so that they can make an early entry into the monastery and row side seats to the wonderful traditional dances.
Photo by Amiya.Postcrossing
Look Outside The Monastery Too
During the festival the inside of the monastery screams out loud about the celebrations and ambience. But do not underestimate the outside the monastery, as the outside of the monastery has a similar ambience which is nothing short of a fair. You will find in display, loads of delicious local food, artefacts and knickknacks.
Hemis Festival is one of those incredible festivals which shows a different light of our beautiful country. I am sure this festival will certainly touch your soul like it has been doing for so many other tourists. A tip for you is that do try and grab a seat as close to the main courtyard, remember these are fast filling ones but if you succeed the experience will be awesome. Also it would be a great experience to sit and watch this exceptional fair with the locals, as they come dressed in traditional cummerbunds. And while you flock around outside the monastery do grab some local handicrafts, the local merchants come and display their wares at the festival. So next time you plan a visit to Ladakh during the summers, made sure to keep this festival as one part of your journey.
Featured Photo by madpai
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