As Ladakh, the cold barren desert of northernmost frontiers of India wakes up from harsh winters, it’s time to celebrate the Ladakhi Hemis festival. In the quaint Hemis Jangchub Choling Monastery, the colorful extravaganza of celebrating the birth of local savior Lord Padmasambhava is under fervent preparations. 45 kms from Leh, capital city of Ladakhwitnesses’ international crowds come to join the festivities. Dance, music, prayers, masked performances and a medley of colors will be seen everywhere you see. The otherwise quaint and rugged landscape of Ladakh turns vibrant and chaotic during this monastery festival.
Based on Tibetan and Buddhist Legends, Hemis Festival is said to have its origins back in 8thCentury. Lord Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rimpoche is believed to be the local savior who banished demons and evil spirits. The spiritual leader is said to have introduced of Tantric Buddhism in the Himalayan Kingdom. Combining the teachings of Buddhism and Tibetan culture, a new way was established where life was entwined with prayers, austere life and a higher calling.
The birth of Guru Rimpoche also known as Lord Padmasambhava is the occasion which is celebrated during Hemis Festival. The spiritual leader is conferred as the local savior. The leader of Tantric Buddhism, it is said that he introduced Buddhism in the Himalayan Kingdom as early as the 8th Century.
The festival highlight is the Dance performances and plays by masked Lamas. The masked dancerepresents the good prevailing over evil. The participants of the spellbinding performance are dressed in vibrant costumes and bright masks. Every mask has its own place in Tibetan and Buddhist legends. Signifying aspects of good and evil, they are designed as humble, divine faces, animals, skeletons and numerous frightful figurines. Dancers can be seen with slow dance movements and fanciful expressions. The masked dance performance is created on music medley of sounds of drums, trumpets and cymbals. The famous Padmasambhava dance, the highlight of the dance shows the victory of the ruta demons. The dances are spellbinding as the divine is represented and its said to be purifying your soul.
Every 12th year known as the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, Hemis Monastery Festival takes an auspicious turn.The unfurling of the largest Thangkha(12 metres) from the second floor of the monastery for the world to see shall happen in 2016 after 12 years. The scripture is worth seeing as it’s so delicately preserved.
Inside the monastery and outside during the festival check out the stalls. From delightful tastes of the mountain Kingdom to unique handicrafts of the region the sight are wonderful. Residents of remote villages, adventure seekers, photographers and travelers make their way here to be a part of the festival.
When to Go
After a tough winter the chills have become bearable, the Hemis monastery opens its doors to enjoy festivities. The date every year changes as it is celebrated every year onthe tenth day of the Lunar calendar of the Tibetan month.In 2016 the festival is to be celebarted on 14th and 15th July. This festival will be unique as the special ceremony which happens once in 12 years, the unfurling of the largest Thangkha is scheduled during the occasion.
Where to Go
In Jammu & Kashmir in Ladakh district, 45 kms from Leh, Hemis Monastery lies in a gorge. The quaint setting amongst greenery in the otherwise barren landscape is a beautiful sight. The largest Gompa in Ladakh is the most accessible and houses around 500 saffron clad monks. Backpackers, devotees and adventure lovers can be seen making their way to the unexplored Himalayan kingdom.