When it comes to blessings, Ladakh scores high because of the picturesque landscapes that portray the barren lands, the bright blue lakes and river, varied vegetation and fauna and the clear night skies that offer a perfect opportunity for gazing at the stars. These are the reasons why people visit Ladakh and for those who haven’t visited this land yet, it is definitely on the top of their list. Ladakh is more than the land of snow leopards and wild yaks. This is also a land where festivals are celebrated all around the year, which offers a fortuity to the tourists to be a part of them. In this article, we will read about 9 festivals in Leh Ladakh you probably didn’t know about.
To cover up for the all-white lands of Leh Ladakh, the locals are much ahead in celebrating different festivals, which are colourful enough to give a treat to your eyes. If there is more to see in Ladakh then it is the festivals that are celebrated on a huge scale. These festivities display the rich culture of Ladakh that is an amalgamation of Tibetan and Buddhist culture. The monks and the priests and even locals are widely a part of the festivals that mostly focus on warding off the evil spirits and bringing in good luck. The highlight of these festivities is the oracles, which are young monks or local people chosen to live in a while in solitude, in deep meditation, after which, they are possessed by the spirit of the God. These oracles don a vital role in the festivals by giving out future predictions in terms of the many events. Not just this, various sports like archery and polo are also organized along with traditional music and dance in which the locals take part with enthusiasm.
Here are some of the best Buddhist festivals celebrated in Leh Ladakh
1. Losar festival
Being one of the most popular festivals in Ladakh, it is celebrated to mark the onset of the New Year. Various cultural events, rituals and performances take place. There is also lightning of the holy fire, chanting of the mantras by the monks who don colourful robes. The main attraction of this festival is the stage fights between God and evil along with the Ibex deer dance. Gods, deities, ancestors and animals are fed continuously throughout this festival. Like any other festival, people illuminate their homes and offer sacrifices. Pictures of Ibex are put up as an auspicious symbol on the walls of the kitchen to bring prosperity. If you want to enjoy this festival, plan a trip to Ladakh in the month of December.
2. Sindhu Darshan
This 3-day festival is also known as Guru Purnima, which commemorates the Indus River since the locals believe that this river plays a crucial role in creating bonds of love and friendship between the locals. Local artists from all over the country come here to display their talent in forms of unique dance performances. Apart from that, you can also see how people from different states bring water in a pot from their respective state and immerse it in the Indus River. Prayers are offered on the banks of the river where a bonfire is lit at night, followed by puja on the 3rd day. This festival takes place in June and you can plan a trip accordingly if you wish to witness the festivities.
3. Hemis Tsechu
Among all the festivals, this festival is a popular one in Ladakh where you get to see colours of all forms. The masked dances by the lamas of the Hemis monastery is a key highlight that comes to an end with a sacrificial offering made on the last day. Celebrating the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet, this festival is organized in the Hemis Gompa, which is the largest and the richest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh. Be a witness to this amazing festival in the month of July.
4. Ladakh Festival
This is the biggest festival of Ladakh, which attracts performers from all over the state who showcase their talent in the form of cultural performances. This festival spans for a period of 2 weeks and comes to a conclusion at the polo ground in Leh. You can immerse yourself in joy since this festival is celebrated with a number of sports and activities. Also, a procession is carried out through the markets, which consist of school kids, local leaders and dancers who are constantly putting up performances on conventional tunes. The colourful outfits of the locals are another highlight of this festival which you cannot afford to miss. You also get to taste Chang, which is a barley beer and available locally. The archery and polo competition will surely make you cheer for your favourite team. Plan your trip to Ladakh in September if you want to be a part of this festival.
5. Yuru Kabgyat
This is an enchanting festival in Ladakh, organized in the Lamayuru Monastery over a span of 2 days. The teachings of Tibetan Buddhism are spread across the locals in forms of traditional singing and dancing. The teachings of Gautam Buddha are emphasized throughout the festivities. This lively festival also sees prayers and chantings with masked dances that are conducted to ward off any kind of disaster and bring peace to the world. A sacred ritual takes place during this festival where the demolition of the statue symbolizes the liberation of the inner demons. This festival is marked in the month of June.
6. Thiksey Gustor
Celebrated in October, this festival celebrates the saying, ‘All bad things come to an end’. Gustor, which means, “sacrificing the 29th date”, is a two-day festival that commences with the offerings of charms and chants to the monks residing at the monastery. The major attraction of this festival are the black hat dancers who perform a sacred dance along with a dough cutting ceremony of the sacrificial cake.
Initially started by the royals of Ladakh, this 2-day festival is celebrated to ensure the safety and well-being of the locals. A number of locals come together dressed in colourful attire and perform a sacred dance. The monks of the Takthok monastery prepare offerings of thread crosses that are believed to ward off all evil and guard the place against any natural disaster. Lamas who have expertise in practising astrology and tantric, prepare Thread Crosses, an offering to ward off the evil forces. This festival is held in the month of February.
8. Matho Nagrang
Lasting for a period of 2 days, this festival is celebrated where monks are dressed in silk robes and masks that depict Ladakhi Gods and Goddesses. The interesting feature of this event is when 2 oracles return after their solitude, in which they practise meditation and are said to be possessed by the spirit of Gods. They announce their presence by making future predictions of the events that the locals believe to be serious. This festival takes place in the month of March.
9. Stok Guru Tsechu
Celebrated for a span of 2 days in February, this festival is held at the Stok Monastery and commences on the 9th day of the Tibetan calendar. Famous masked dances are performed along with music, prayers and lip-smacking food to taste. The key feature of this festival is that it is the locals who perform all the activities that make this festival a lively one. Another highlight is when 2 locals, chosen by lamas, are properly cleaned and prepared to receive the spirit of the deities.
If you wish to see the diversity in culture in Ladakh, these festivals will give you a chance for the same. Since these festivals are carried in various months, you can plan your trip to this Himalayan region accordingly. These festivals are also glimpses of the locals’ approach the life.
Also Read: Trip to Leh for Breakseekrs and Wanderers