Fair & Festivals
Ladakh every occasion marriage, birth, harvesting, commemoration of head Lamas
founding of the monastery, Losar (new year) and flowering is marked by feasting,
dancing and the singing of folksongs that forms a part of its living heritage.
Most of the festivals are held in winter but some popular festival take place
in summer too. The monastic festivals are the heart of all the festivals. They
are performed by Monks wearing colorful silk garments and different facial mask.
Hemis festival is one of the most famous monastic festivals in June to commemorate
birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The
sacred dance drama of the life and mission is performed wearing facial masks
and colorful brocades robes. The three-day festival takes place from 9th to
11th. Especially the monkey year festival, which comes in a cycle of 12 years.
During it the four-storey thanka of Guru Padma Sambhava is hung in the courtyard
and other precious thankas are also exhibited.
Thiksey, Karsha and Spituk Gustor
Gustors take place at Thiksey, Spituk and Karsha in different months of the
year. The festival takes place for two days. The celebration is to mark the
victory over evils. The mask worn by the dancers represent the Guardians,
Protectors and the Gods and Goddesses. The festival ends with the symbolic
assassination of evils and burning of the effigy of evils.
Dosmochey is celebrated in Leh (Leh Palace), Liker (Lower Ladakh) and Deskit
(Nubra valley) monasteries in February. The most famous among all is Leh Dosmochey,
which is celebrated for two days in the courtyards of the Leh palace. The
monks from different monasteries perform the Chams every year turn by turn.
The festival takes place in the end and starting of the Tibetan New Year.
The monks of Takthok monastery prepares the offering with Thread crosses which
binds all the evil, hungry ghosts and guard against natural disaster in the
coming year. On the second day of the festival, the offerings are taken out
of the town in a procession and burn it while people whistle to chase away
the evil spirits.
Matho Nagrang is celebrated on the 15th day of the 1st month of Tibetan calander,
at Matho monastery, the only monastery of the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism.
During these two days of festival mask dances are performed by monks of the
monastery wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask in different forms of
God and Goddesses. The festival is famous because of appearance of the two oracles
during the festival after full month meditation in complete isolation. The two
oracles appear in the courtyard accompanying mask dancers and predict
future events and people from far and away come to seek advice to perform ritual
to tackle with disasters.
Stok Guru Tsechu
The monks of Stok and Spituk monasteries also celebrate Stok Gruru Tsechu
for two days with mask dances performed. It is also held in Feb. around a
week before the Matho Nagrang. During the festival two oracle appears, but
they are laymen from the same village prepared by monks to receive the spirit
of the deities.
Phyang Tsedup takes place in July / August. Like other monasteries, monks
wearing colorful brocade robes and Mask in the form of different god and goddesses
perform mask dances. The huge thanka of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo is hung in the
courtyard during the festival.
The 2-day festival takes place in July in Lamayuru monastery around 125 kms.
from Leh. Monks like other monastic festival perform mask dances. During the
festival monks perform prayer and rituals to get rid of disaster and peace
in the world.
The Losar (New Year) celebration is followed by Galdan Namchot, the birth
anniversary of Tsogkha pa who introduced Gelukpa School of order. During Namchot
people illuminate their houses, monasteries and mountains and make offerings
in the houses and monasteries.
The Losar festival is celebrated in the eleventh month of Tibetan calendar,
two months ahead of Tibetan New Year. In early 17th century, King Jamyang
Namgyal decided to lead an expedition against the Baltistan forces in winter;
therefore he decided to celebrate the festival two months before. Later it
became a tradition and being celebrated in the eleventh month.
The festival lasts for around a month, during which Gods, deities, ancestors
and even the animals are fed without fail. Images of Ibex are made as auspicious
symbol, walls of the kitchens are dotted and are believed to bring prosperity
in coming year. The Metho (procession of fire) is thrown out chanting slogans
and chasing hungry ghosts and evil spirits, and they return with rocks of
ice as auspicious symbol and these are kept in the store. In some villages
there is a tradition of making Old men and women, from this snow which last
for a week. Over all the Losar all children and young and olds enjoy and celebrate
the festival. All family members get together to celebrate if someone missing
will have their cups filled with tea by their name.
festival takes place in September 1-15 every year in Leh and villages. The inauguration
ceremony takes place in Leh on large scale with the procession of various cultural
troupes from different part of Ladakh. It passes through Leh Market dancing,
singing with traditional music, in colorful traditional Ladakhi dresses, and
finishes at Polo ground after performing their best dances and songs. The festival
last for 15 days with regular program in different villages. The program includes
Archery, Polo, and Mask Dances from the monasteries, traditional dances by cultural
troupes from Villages. There are series of musical concert and dance program
in Leh town.
Sindhu Darshan (Visit Indus) Festival
Sindhu Darshan is three-day festival held from 1st to 3rd June, in Shey Manla
around 8 kms. from Leh on the bank of Indus river. For the first time it was
organized in October 1997, as a symbol of unity and Communal harmony and national
integration. Whilst promoting domestic tourism in Ladakh.
It is also a symbolic salute to brave soldiers of India who have been fighting
not only with enemies in the in the human form but also in the form of nature.
During this festival artists from different parts of the country perform traditional
dances and people from all religions, castes and regions participate.