Hemis Festival: Explore the Tibetan and Buddhist culture.
All about Tibet festivals in Leh
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Hemis Festival: Explore the Tibetan and Buddhist culture.

A place like Leh Ladakh, in the region of Jammu and Kashmir makes you feel like God has  truly crafted a masterpiece, resembling heaven on this planet. This land never fails to mesmerize anyone who comes here to travel. The barren land lies amidst the Himalayas and contains precious things such as the bright blue waters in the lakes and rivers, the enchanting monasteries, the friendly locals and the landscape so surreal that you feel like a dream.  The picturesque of Ladakh is so breathtaking that you just want to capture it in your memories forever. This place also makes a perfect home for a varied fauna and flora that thrive in the midst of chilling temperatures.

If you plan a trip to Ladakh, be it in whichever month, you will be glad to be a part of the festivities. Out of all the festivals in Ladakh, the Hemis festival is a popular one and takes place on a large scale. There are various festivals in Ladakh, all around the year, which is why travelers are lucky enough to embark upon any one of them.

The grandeur of this festival makes every traveler tempt to be a part of it. Just witnessing this festival is like a treat to your eyes as you get to see a splash of several colors in this all white region of Ladakh. The Hemis Festival in Leh differs than the other festivals celebrated in the country because this festival is a fusion of Tibetan, Chinese and Buddhist tradition. Masked dances of the monks wearing colorful robes are a rare view, which you will only exclusively find here in Ladakh.

The festival is celebrated in the Hemis Gompa, which is where the crowd gathers, making it a huge gathering that the locals enjoy. The sacred dances and the appearance of the oracles are something that you wouldn’t want to give a miss. Just like the other festivals, the Hemis Festival too gives out spiritual teachings, which become valuable in our lives. Below stated are every detail that you want to know about the Hemis Festival.

# Hemis Festival

A glimpse of the Hemis Monastery: The Hemis Festival is celebrated in the Hemis Monastery, which happens to be the largest and the most flourishing monastery in the whole of Ladakh. Situated on the Leh-Manali highway and about 40kms from Leh and 7kms from Karu, this Gompa was built in 1630 and is run by the Drukpa sect of Buddhism, which once flourished during the Namgyal dynasty.

There are two main parts in the monastery, namely Tshongkhang and Dukhang. Although this place is peaceful and calm throughout the year, it plays a host to enthusiasm during the Hemis Festival that spans for 2 days. There is a museum in this monastery, which has all the artifacts preserved well that reveal much about the Tibetan and Buddhist culture.

A glimpse of the Hemis Festival: Falling on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar calendar, this festival takes place through a course of 2 days in the month of June where you get to see zeal and vigor among the local people.

This occasion marks the birth anniversary of spiritual leader Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibet Tantric Buddhism. This festival is set up in the courtyard of the Hemis Gompa.

Hemis Festival
A Glimpse of Hemis Festival

History behind the Hemis Festival: The monasteries in Ladakh are an ode to Indian, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism. The Hemis Festival, which celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Tantric Buddhism attracts a number of tourists. During the celebrations in the Hemis Gompa, a seat is adorned in fancy silk and gemstones while prayer offerings are made around it.

It is believed that Guru Padmasambhava fought off the evil doers with courage and protected the people of his land. This monastery is a house to idols engraved with precious and semi-precious stones and also a home to the biggest Thangka or sacred silk painting in the Ladakh region, which is showcased one in every 12 years.

Hemis Monastery
Hemis Monastery

If you need one strong reason to visit Leh during the Hemis Festivals, we present you with many!

1.  The carnival preparations: The head priest directs the course of the festival. The local people happily shed off their routine and get decked up in colorful attire for the function. Priests called ‘Chams’ carry out impressive masquerades with long horns, drums and cymbals that are played by the monks.

They are donned in exclusive attire, which are adorned with colors and tinted masks. These masks are the fundamental component of the dance that takes place on the charming traditional tunes.

Hemis Festival
Hemis Festival

2.   The Cham Dance: The Cham dance very peculiar and if you happen to visit Ladakh during this festival, this dance is an eye catcher for you. The dance movements are slow with the participants putting up grotesque expressions. The masks, which hold importance represent an unusual statue of the myth that is being showcased.

The famous Padmasambhava dance, illustrates the subjugation of the Ruta demons, which incorporates Yama- the God of demise, and the black-hatted wizard, Guru Orakpo- the conqueror of all fiends.

Hemis Festival
The Cham Dance

3.   A unique exhibition: The festivities get even more promising when the two-storey high ‘Thanka’ depicting Guru Padmasambhava puts on a show that happens only once in every 12 years. This Thanka is adorned with pearls and other precious and semi-precious stones that are worth watching out for.

Hemis Festival
The Mask Dance

4.  The beautiful artifacts: A fair is set up for the people, which displays several handiworks that you wish to take home as souvenirs. Tourists from all over the world visit this fair and take back home wonderful handicrafts. Apart from these, you can also buy the famous colorful masks, traditional fabrics and jewelry. You can also buy postcards and prayer flags for your friends and family back home.

5.  Paintings in the Gompa: Since the Hemis Festival takes place in the Hemis Gompa, you get to see the famous paintings, which will take you back in time. The walls of the Gompa are decorated with paintings that depict the ‘Kalachakra’ and the ‘Lords of the Four Quarters’.

6.  The dance of the lamas: The masked dance performances of the lamas are totally worth here. They are all dressed up in burgundy and mustard yellow outfits with well-coordinated dance steps that tells the tales of mythology and folklore. The attire of these performers consists of multicolored ribbons, horns and brocade that shine bright under the sun.

7.  Enjoy the delicacies: The food in Ladakh is indistinct to any other Indian region. During the Gompa festivities, you can cure your hunger pangs at a Tibetan café, which is situated right outside the Gompa. You will find yourself surrounded by a variety of rice, noodles and Thukkpas, which are considered to be a delicacy in Ladakh. While not everyone enjoys the Thukkpas, you can surely get a taste of it once. And there is nothing ideal than a plate of mouth-watering hot momos dipped in your favorite sauce in the chilly temperatures.

We have all enjoyed festivals like Diwali by lighting lanterns and Holi by playing with colors and water balloons. So, this time you can go on a trip to Ladakh and be a part of the largest festival of the region- The Hemis Festival. Exploring the beauty of this festival is like peeling off several layers of Tibetan and Buddhist cultures whilst learning about them.

This festival not only enables you to experience sheer joy by watching the sacred masked dance but also teaches you the lesson of good winning upon the evil. And if watching the masked dance on traditional tunes isn’t enough for you, you can get colorful masks for yourself from the local market and don it while you shake your leg too.

If you do not want to miss out on this amazing cultural festival, book your trip to Ladakh accordingly. Experience the surreal landscapes drenched in the colorful festivities like never before.

Also Read: Trip to Himachal for Breakseekers and Wanderers  9N_10 Days

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