Hemis Festival Overview
happens to be an eclectic mix of countless castes and creeds. It was here
that Buddhism, which has millions of adherents round the globe, took birth
and reached far across to countries like Japan, China, Sri Lanka, Burma,
Thailand, Malaysia, Combodia, Greece, Egypt and Laos among others. Today,
the country celebrates a number of Buddhist festivals that are a reflection
of the philosophy (of life) that this system of beliefs rests on. The Hemis
Festival (Ladakh) is an important festival of the Buddhists and a major draw
for tourists and pilgrims alike.
Venue & Time of Celebration
The Hemis Festival is organised at Ladakh in the northern Indian state of
Jammu and Kashmir. It is actually the courtyard of the Hemis Gompa where all
the rituals and celebrations take place. The festival falls in the last week
of June, on the tenth day of the lunar month in the Tibetan calendar.
The festival commemorates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava and
continues for two consecutive days. As the celebrations begin in the
courtyard of the Hemis Monastery, the Lamas appear on the scene to perform
mask dances and to enact sacred plays. They continue with their rhythmic
movements to the accompaniment of the melodious music emanating from the
cymbals and drums. The dances performed by the lamas represent the victory
of good over evil.
a legend behind the dance performance of the lamas. It says that Guru
Padmasambhava, the founder of the Tibetan Buddhism, contended with the
demons for the security of the local people. And the dance performance by
the lamas records the very legend. The dance show conclude with the
destruction of an effigy made of dough. The figure, that represents evil, is
destroyed by the leader of the Black Hat dancers. As the annihilated figure
gets dispersed in four directions, the head lama presides over the event.
After it all begins the social entertainment of the locals. People,
including the elderly and the young, join in the merrymaking. A major draw
for tourists here is the fair where they can pick out some interesting
curios, souvenirs and other items of art and craft. Exhibitors gather with
valuable pieces of handicrafts from all over Ladakh area.
Another interesting part of the festivities is the time when the very
exclusive thangka of the Hemis Gompa is put on display. This two-storey high
thangka is studded with pearls and semi-precious stones. A sight to see
indeed! However, this grand show of thangka takes place every twelve years.
Other Cultural Attractions
Behind all these festivities lies your opportunity of meeting with a local
friend. Interact with the natives of Ladakh and try to gain a much keener
insight into their lifestyle. Don't forget to respect their culture though.
Apart from coming across with the locals and knowing their day's routine,
you can also plan to visit the monasteries that stand close by. The whole
region is dotted with countless gompas that are known for their serenity and