About the Hemis Festival
Ladakh is not only famous for its world's highest motorable road, striking panoramas, crystal clear skies, mountain passes, and adventure activities, but also for its monasteries and festivals, and Hemis monastery and its festival is not an exception. Held at the sprawling courtyard of Hemis monastery, the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, representing the richest display of Tibetan culture in India.
Not only the people of Ladakh but travelers around the planet visit here to be a part of this wonderful festival, which is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava, who is also known as Guru Rinpoche. Hemis Festival is also known as Ladakhi Hemis festival, and it is celebrated on the birthday of local savior Lord Padmasambhava. Followed by dance, music, prayers, and masked performances, during the festival myriad of colors will be seen everywhere. Hemis Festival turns the quaint and rugged landscape of Ladakh into a vibrant and chaotic one.
Significance of Hemis Festival
Based on Tibetan and Buddhist Legends, Hemis Festival is said to have its origins back in the 8th Century. 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 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.
Since then, the people of Ladakh started celebrating this festival, and also believe celebrating it with great zeal will keep them away from the negative energy. The Hemis Monastery experience is an enlightening tour through India’s festive art, values, and contributions to the progress, happiness, and harmony of mankind.
Who celebrates the Hemis festival?
Ladakh is also known as ‘Mini Tibet’, and this grand festival in Ladakh is all about Buddhist people and their culture. So, the Hemis festival is celebrated by the people of Ladakh, mostly the Tibetian community. It is celebrated at the sweeping courtyard of Hemis monastery, Ladakh.
In which state the Hemis Festival is celebrated?
Hemis Festival is celebrated at the popular Hemis Monastery near Leh, Ladakh.
When is the Hemis festival celebrated?
The dates of the Hemis festival vary every year, however, according to the English calendar, it takes place between February to July. However, if you want to witness the jaw-dropping celebration of the Hemis festival, then visit Ladakh in ‘Tibetan Year of Monkey’, which falls every 12 years. This year 2023, this two days grand festival - Hemis Festival 2023 is going to commence on 28th Jun and will end on 29th Jun 2023.
Why is the Hemis Festival Celebrated?
Hemis Festival of Ladakh is celebrated on the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. It is a two-day grand festival that signifies the triumph of good over evil. The festival draws its roots back to the 8th century and celebrates the existence of the Guru Padmasambhava, a great spiritual figure in Tibetan history.
How is the Hemis Festival Celebrated?
During the festival, Hemis Monastery (Gompa) becomes a hot-spot of vigorous activities. Hemis Monastery is comprehended to be the most prosperous and the biggest monastery in Ladakh, which emphasizes the highest thangka in Ladakh. Two long trumpets, which are called dungchen, are displayed in the courtyard in front of the flagpole and blown by two monks. This marks the commencement of the Hemis festival. During the celebration of the festival, the Buddhist gompa gets divided into two main parts – the assembly hall on the right and the temple on the left. Followed by saintly dances, performing the ritual, along with the exclusive musical performances, the Hemis Festival begins.
The lamas and monks gather to perform the incredible Mask Dance, which is specifically intended to rejoice in good over evil. This grand festival not only socializes the Monks and the Lama but also serves as an opportunity for all the villagers and families to come together and relish. During the festival, men wear cummerbands while women are dressed in bright headgear and loads of ornaments. The Brass trumpets, which are 3 meters in diameter, are played and the whole festive scene becomes a beauty to behold.
Main Attractions of the Hemis Festival 2023
The dance of the divine known as the Cham dance is the main attraction of the festival. The Cham dance is a unique performance done by the Tibetan Buddhism community. Cham dance is also known as the God Dance, which is a colorful and dramatic performance.
Being a part of the festival and witnessing the lively dance performances is one of the best experiences to have in Ladakh. Unlike the other mythical dance, Cham has also a theological meaning, that is why the dance is only performed by the monks and lamas. Cham dance is a form of meditation for both dancers and the viewers. Apart from that, the colorful stalls selling food, and other souvenirs, also the display of Thangkas (Buddhist paintings) add more appeal to this grand festival.
How to Reach Hemis Monastery?
To reach the Hemis Monastery first you have to reach Leh. The distance from Leh to Hemis is around 45 km. Scroll down and get detailed information about how to reach Hemis Monastery.
By Air – The nearest airport to Hemis Monastery is Leh Airport, which is located at a distance of about 43 km away from the monastery. The airport is well-connected to the major cities of India such as New Delhi, Chandigarh, and Jammu and Kashmir. On arrival, you can hire a taxi to reach the Hemis Monastery.
By Road – Manali – Leh Highway is the best route if you wish to reach the monastery by road. The other option to reach the Hemis Monastery is by hitting the road of Leh – Srinagar Highway. If you are in Srinagar, then you can take JKSRTC (Jammu and Kashmir State Road Transport Corporation) or private bus services, which regularly ply from Srinagar to Ladakh.
By Rail – Jammu Tawi railway station is the nearest railhead, which is located at a distance of about 683 km away from Leh. On arrival at the railway station you can hire a taxi to reach your destination via Srinagar Leh Highway. Or you can also take government or private bus services to reach Leh.
Where to stay during Hemis Festival?
You may find limited hotels and rest houses in the proximity of the Hemis Monastery. But within 50 km you can find ample hotels, where you can enjoy a comfortable stay. Some of the best nearby hotels are:
- Yarab Tso Hotel
- The Zen Ladakh Resort
- Nine Palace Guest House
- The Buddha Hotel
- Hotel Lharimo
- Hotel Lumbini
- Hotel Lingzi
- Hotel Nezer Holiday Inn
- Hotel Rafica Ladakh
- Hotel Mandala
Important Travel Tips
- Photography inside the prayer hall and the museum at the Hemis Monastery is strictly prohibited.
- Wear decent clothes during the festival.
- Do not consume alcohol or any intoxicating substance before or after visiting the monastery.
- Travel or visit only if you are fit and healthy.
- Inform about the visit to your close ones prior, you may find network connectivity issues.
- Carry the prescribed or the essential medicine with you.
- Carry power banks and extra batteries before visiting.