Hemis Festival-A Two-Day Festival to Celebrate the Birth Anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava

The region of Leh-Ladakh is not only famous for adventurous activities, but also for its religious festivals and fairs highlighting the well-known Buddhist culture prevailing there. Tourists from various parts of the world travel to Ladakh to be part of its famous Hemis Festival.

One of the largest and famous religious festivals of Lakakh, held on the 10th-day of Tse-Chu, i.e. the lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. The Hemis festival is a two-day carnival the head of Lamas in Hemis Gompa organizes to mark the birth anniversary of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism named Guru Padmasambhava.

Date of the Festival

Hemis Festival usually falls on the 5th month of the Tibetan calendar. This year it will be held on 11th and 12th-July. Every year, the head of Lamas decides the dates to celebrate the Hemis Festival based on the Tibetan lunar month.

Location of the Hemis Festival

Celebrated in the courtyard of the Hemis Gompa, the biggest and richest Buddhist monasteries of the world, it is 40 km away from Leh. The monk Padmasambhava was the founder of the Tibet’s Tantric Buddhism and locals recognize him as an incarnation of the Lord Buddha. Also called Guru Rinpoche, he contributed a lot to build the first Buddha temple in Tibet. Moreover, the majestic mountains, holy thankas, as well as gold and silver-made stupas attract thousands to the monastery.

The History behind the Celebration of Hemis Festival

The Hemis festival is celebrated to venerate the reincarnate of Lord Buddha. Most believe he was born on the 10th-day of the fifth month, of the year of the monkey. So, this festival, held every 12 years is an extravaganza unlike any other. However, when the King Sengge Namgyal rebuilt the Hemis monastery in 1672, they decided to have an annual festival honoring the memory of the Padmasambhava. This festival also signifies the triumph of good over evil.

The Celebration

Be ready for a beautifully decorated monastery and displays of local arts and handicrafts in the courtyard. The locals dress up in traditional clothes and gather in the Hemis monastery to celebrate the festival. Every year, the ceremony of Hemis Festival begins in the morning when the portrait of Guru Padmasambhava is placed at the top of the Hemis Gompa to allow others to view it and seek his blessings.

Music and dance are still an important part of the celebrations. Don’t forget to see the Lamas dance around the center flagpole accompanied by cymbals, drumbeats, and longhorns. Locals believe these traditional rituals increase your spiritual and physical health.

Lama Rituals

The celebration of the Hemis festival includes a ritual that only Lamas perform, though you can see it. The organizers place two raised platforms in the courtyard in front of the monastery’s main gate. The platforms have a dais and a pole, on which Lamas take their seats. Later, the people honor the Lamas offering several types of tantric ritual items, like a crafter with butter and dough, cups of holy water, incense sticks and raw rice. Monks wear long gowns, ornate headgear, and masks. Each mask has a special meaning attached to it.

Cham Dances

The Cham dance, known as the masked dance, is the highlight of the Hemis festival attracting thousands to the monastery. These dances aim to depict the victory of good over evil. Not on;y dances, but can also see various plays that are meant to amuse.

At the end of the Chang dance, the head of the Black Hat dancers destroy a sculpture made from dough that stands for evil and throws each of the broken pieces in different directions to imply the purification of the soul after death.

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