Fair And Festivals of Ladakh

Hemis Festival
The courtyard of Hemis Gompa - the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, is the stage for the famous 'Hemis' festival, that celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The colourful two day pageant falls on the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar month. The local people are seen dressed up in their finest traditional garb for the occasion.

Spectacular masked dances and sacred plays by Lamas called 'chhams' are performed around the central flagpole, to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism is believed to have fought with demons for the safety of the local people. The Lamas wear colourful costumes, i.e. long brocade gowns set off by quaint headgears. Masks worn by the lamas represent various guardian divinities of the Dugpa order, of which Hemis is the leading establishment in Ladakh. The dances end with the ritual destruction of a sacrificial offering of a human figure made of dough by the leader of the Black Hat dancers. The pieces are then scattered in the four directions depicting a re-enactment of the assassination of the Tibetan apostate king Lang-dar-ma by a Buddhist monk in AD842 or cleansing of the soul after death.
'Rimpoche' or the head lama presides over the function. The lamas recite mantras associated with the various episodes of the 'chhams'. The festival takes an auspicious turn every 12 years in the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, when the two-storey high ' Thanka' depicting Padmasambhava is displayed. This famous 'Thanka', richly embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones, is due to be displayed next in AD 2004.

A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special highlight of the festival. The so-called 'devil dances' constitute an important element in the social entertainment of the Ladakhis. The uproarious song-and-dance mirth, created by these mask dances, which invariably depict the victory of the right over evil, is kept by the all-round consumption of huge bowls of 'chang', Ladakhis own country liquor.

Dosmoche Festival, the festival of the scapegoat, is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Leh. Dosmoche Festival falls in the second half of February. Dosmoche is one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar. At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is held up outside Leh.

At the appointed time, offerings of storma, ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleansed and made ready to welcome the New Year. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) also time their festivals to coincide with Dosmoche festival.

Losar, the spectacular festival celebrates the Ladakhi or Tibetan New Year. The festivities last for 2 weeks during December or January, depending on the Lunar Calendar. All Ladakhi Buddhists celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in Gompas and in their domestic shrines. The festival is marked with ancient rituals, the stage fights between good and evil, chanting and passing through the crowds with fire torches, the dance of the Ibex deer and the dramatic battles between the King and his ministers. This festival is full of music, dances and merry-making. This important festival changes its location and dates every year.

Phyang Festival is celebrated in the month of July (late July or early August) in Ladakh. Like Hemis, the Phyang festival also involves the exhibition of gigantic Thangka, though here it is done every year.

Tak-Tok festival is celebrated at cave Gompa of Tak-Tok in Ladakh. It is one of the major festivals of Ladakh. Tak-Tok festival is celebrated for about ten days after Phyang festival. This festival is celebrated in summer, and yet another tourist attraction. The festival is celebrated with fanfare and locals from far areas storm the place on the occasion.

Sindhu Darshan
Sindhu Darshan Festival, as the name suggests, is a celebration of the Sindhu river. The people travel here for the Darshan and Puja of the River Sindhu (Indus) which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet. The festival aims at projecting the Sindhu river as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. This festival is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of India who have valiantly fought the odds at

Siachen, Kargil and other places. It is also an opportunity for people from around the country and overseas to visit the beautiful regions of Leh and Ladakh. This festival was first celebrated in the year 1997 and later this festival is organized annually at Leh in the month of May-June by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir with the support of the Ministry of tourism and culture, Government of India. The festival is kaleidoscope of Indian culture and showcases an exciting array of performing arts being brought together at an exciting place. As part of the celebrations, various groups from different states in India bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse these pots in the Sindhu river, thereby mingling the river water with other waters of the land.