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.
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.
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.
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
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
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