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Ladakh Festival


Most of Ladakh's Buddhist festivals, in which masked chaam dance dreamsas are performed by lamas in monastery courtyards, take palace in January and February, when roads into the region are snowbound. This works out well for the locals, for whome they relieve the tedium of the relentless winter, but it means that few outsiders get to experience some of the northern Himalays' most  vibrant and facinating spectacles, Recently, however, a few of the larger gompas around Leh have followed the example of Hemis, and switched their annual festivals to the summer, to attract tourists, Proceeds from ticket sales go towards maintenance and restoration work and the construction of new shrines.

The precise dates of these monastic events over a five year period which vary according to the Tibetan lunar calendar, are published in the useful local guide, Reach Ladakh, available from most bookshops in Leh; the description of the Hemis Festival Programme is also very useful in providing an insight into the proceedings. Alternatively the tourist office in Leh produces a listions booklet called ladakh, The following festivals are held in summer, but many of the important gompas such as Matho, (mid Feb to mid March)Spitok(mid Jan) tikse (late Oct to mid Nov) and Diskit (mid - Feb to early March) in Nubra, hold their chaams in winter or spring. Other important festivals in Ladakh include Losas which falls any time between mid December and early January.

Hemis Festival

Hemis Festivals : Its famous festival one of the few held in summer (mid - July0 when the passes are  open Hemis, 45km southeast of Leh , is visited in greater numbers than any other gompa in Ladakh, Evey year in mid July, hundreds of foreigners join the huge crowds of locals, dressed up in their finest traditional grab that flock to watch the colourful two day pageant. However at other times the rambling and atmospheric seventeenth centuary monastery can be disappointingly quiet. Although one of the region's foremost religious institutions only a skeletion staff of monks and novices are resident off season.

 

The main entrance opens onto the large rectangular courtyard where athe festival chaam dances are aperformed. Accompained by cymbal crashes, drumrools and periodic blasts from the temple trumpets the culmination of the event ouman ego and thus the triumph of Buddhism over ignorance and evil. Once eveytwelve years, the Hemis festival also hosts the ritual unrolling of a giant thangka. The gompa's prize possession which covers the entire facade of the building it was embroidered by women whose hands are now revered as holy relices.  Decoreated with pearls and precious stones, it will be on show again in 2007.

Losar - Festival

The Buddhists of Ladakh celebrate Losar as their new year. Before the rule of Jamiang Namgyal (1555-1610), this day was considered to be the first day of the Ladakhi Buddhist year, which is based on the moon and sun similar to that of the Hindus. However, Losar was advanced by two days as Jamiang Namgyal decided to invade Skardu before the new year. Since then, Losar is celebrated on the last two days of the lOth Bodhi month, which coincides with December of the Christian calender. Losar is celebrated with traditional gaiety and fervor. The festivities include illuminations, drinking, dancing, singing and general merry-making. Men come out of their homes with torches of wood which are whirled round and round. People visit each other's homes during these celebrations, which continue for many days.

Sindhu Darshan or Sindhu Festival

The "Sindhu Darshan" or Sindhu festival aims at projecting the Indus as a symbol of India's unity and communal harmony. While promoting tourism in this area, Sindhu darshan is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of India. This festival holds religious significance even while promoting tourism in that area. Sindhu stands for peaceful coexistence and communal harmony and is a symbol of our country's identity and civilization. The 'Sindhu Yatra' helps forge a bond of unity with those who live in far-flung corners of the country; thus providing them an opportunity to visit the beautiful region of Ladakh.

This festival begins usually on the full moon day in July, which is also termed "Guru Purnima". On the first day, the participants of this festival are welcomed and there is a reception on the banks of Sindhu at Shey, about14 km from Leh on Leh-Hemis Gompa Road. Being a truly National Integration Programme, the reception is jointly conducted by the Ladakh Buddhist Association, Shia majlis, Sunni Anjuman, Christian Moravian Church, Hindu Trust and Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee.

A ritual prayer is performed by 50 senior Lamas on the banks of the Sindhu. A host of cultural programmes are performed by the representatives of various states. The celebrations on the banks end with lunch for all the participants.

Later, the participants are taken around for a sight-seeing trip. The day concludes with a campfire and get-together at night.

On the third Day Sindhu Pujan takes place followed by cultural programmes and sightseeing. Then on the fourth day, the participants get ready for departure.

Sightseeing includes Buddhist monasteries and other cultural/heritage sites, which are the principal tourist attractions of Central Ladakh and Zanskar. These sites, most within easy reach from Leh, may be visited by a bus or taxi. Many of the region's major gompas are open throughout the day and a caretaker Lama is available to show visitors around.


Thak Thok Festival

Apart from during the annual festivals of Thak Thok Tse Chu (9-11 of the sixth Tibetan month) and viz Thak Thok Manchog (20-29 of the ninth Tibetan month), the village itself is a tranquil place, blessed with serene views south over the snowy mountains behind Hemis.


Tampe Chonga -

The fifteenth day of the first Bodhi month is celebrated as a festival marking Buddha's entry into the womb of his mother. Prayers are held both at home and in the gompas.

Jipe Chonga -

 The fifteenth day of the fourth Bodhi month is the day when the Buddha is believed to have taken physical birth. The people fast on the Jipe Chonga day. Homes and gompas are illuminated and special prayers are conducted.

 



Ladakh Places of Interest (Visit Ladakh)

Leh
Leh is nested in a side valley just to the north of the Indus Valley.  Until 1947 it had close trading relations with Central Asia yak trains would set off from the Leh Bazaar to complete the stages over the Kaakoam Pass to Yarkand and Kashgar.

Kargil

Administering the  Valleys of Suru , Drass, Wakha and Bodkarbu, Kargil lies midway between the alpine valleys of Kashmir and the fertile reaches of the Indus Valley and ladakh


Thak Thok
Thak Thok gompa shelters a cave in which the apostle Padmasambhava is said to have meditated during his epic eight-century journey to Tibet.

Dhahanu
Dhahanu is situated to the south west of Leh, around 163 Kms. passing through the beautiful villages of Kaltsey, Domkhar, Skurbuchan 


Padum
Padum is 240 km to the south of Kargil, comes as a bit of an anticlimax

Rangdum
Rangdum is an elliptical expanded plateau surrounded by colourful hills on the one side and glacier encrusted rocky mountains on the other. 


Zanskar
Walled in by the Great Himalayan Divide, Zanskar, literally " Land of White Copper" has for decades exrted the allure of Shangri La on visitours to Ladakh.

Zangla
Zangla is the nodal point on the popular Padum Strongdey Zangla Karsha Padum round trip, which covers most of the cultural sites of Zanskar.
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