Located 45kms south of Leh, Hemis is one of the most
accessible and visited gompas in Ladakh, besides being
the most important in terms of spiritual hierarchy. It
has a population of about 500 resident monks. The
Ladakhi royals continue to be ardent patrons of this
The Hemis Tse Chu held in June, commemorating the birth
of the renowned Indian Guru Padmasambhava is one of the
most famous monastic festivals of Ladakh.
This two-day festival features a series of mask dances
by the lamas, both young and old, culminating in the
destruction of the Storma (sacrificial offering) on the
last day. The colourful masks and fine silk costumes
worn by the dancers represent carious guardian
divinities of the Drugpa order to which Hemis belongs.
The dance depicts the magical feats of Padmasambhava in
his eight manifestations to defeat the enemies of
Every twelve years, the 12 metre long tangkha of
Padmanasambhava is displayed. The next exhibition of
this tangkha, richly embroidered in pearls and
semi-precious stones, is due in 2016.
Sindhu Darshan – The Indus Festival
The government of Jammu and Kashmir, in collaboration
with the ministry of tourism and culture, introduced
this festival in the October 1997. This festival falls
in the month of May or June and celebrated exclusively
in Leh. This festival is celebrated to acknowledge river
Indus as a symbol of harmony and peaceful co existence
of the varied cultures of our country. This festival
also pays homage to all the gallant soldiers who had
given up their lives for their country.
Yuru Kabgyat is a two-day monastic festival of Lamayuru
Gompa that falls on the 17th and 18th day of the 5th
Tibetan month, generally coinciding in July. With about
200 resident monks, Lamayuru is the principal monastery
of the Dri-gung-pa order.
Numerous sacred dances and rituals are held on the eve
of Yuru Kabgyat. The masks worn by the lamas at the
dance are those representing the guardian divinities of
the Dri-gung-pa order.Like other monastic dances, it
concludes with the destruction of the sacrificial
The Ladakhi New Year has a unique tradition of being
celebrated two months in advance, on the first day of
the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar, though
festivities begin on the 29th day of the 10th month. It
is the most important socio-religious event of Ladakh.
It is a social event of family and friends, feasting,
new clothes and revelry. The Ladakhi Losar rituals and
customs are a mix of Buddhist and pre-Buddhist Bon
Preparation begins after harvest when people start
stocking provision and brewing chang, a local barley
beer. During the month-long festival, Gods, deities,
ancestors and animals are fed.
On the day of Losar, the elders of the family are
greeted with Khataks (ceremonial scarf) and presents,
and the younger members visit relatives and friends. The
celebrations are accompanied by putting images of the
ibex and other auspicious symbols on the door and walls
of kitchens. There is much feasting and socializing and
even if any member of the family is away, a cup of tea
is poured in their name.
The celebrations end in a procession of people chanting
prayers and carrying flaming torches through the lanes
of the town to chase away evil spirits that come to stay
over the year as a result of our bad deeds. These
torches are eventually thrown away in a gesture of
bidding farewell to the old and welcoming the New Year.