Ladakh Tourism: How to Plan your Leh Ladakh Trip

Jun20

Hemis Festival

  • Venue:

    Hemis Monastery

  • Start Date:

    20th June 2021

  • End Date:

    21st June 2021

Event Details

Hemis Festival in Ladakh is celebrated annually on the 10th day of the Tse-Chu, Lunar month of the Tibetan Calendar. The 2-day fiesta marks the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. On this day, Hemis Monastery is adorned beautifully to host the ceremony. The colorful festival showcases the beautiful handicrafts of the area. Natives also dress up in lovely traditional attires and gather in the courtyard of Hemis Monastery, the biggest Buddhist Monastery of Ladakh. Lamas dance around central flagpole to the tunes of drums, cymbals and long horns. The otherwise cold-barren desert comes to life during Hemis Festival.  

Hemis Festival in Ladakh is one of the important Buddhist festivals, which is not only famous amongst locals but also attended by a large number of tourists. This jubilant celebration is a perfect way to witness the grand display of Tibetan Buddhism in India. As a festival that promotes brotherhood, the festival combines entertainment, history, culture, and spirituality to offer a heavenly experience. The land of the Lamas comes alive to celebrate an age-old history that marks their identity. Here is the detailed information about Hemis Festival. Take a look and learn about the highlights, main attractions, duration, and reasons to celebrate the festival.

Why Celebrate the Hemis Festival in Ladakh?

One of the biggest and most important festivals of Ladakh, which is celebrated annually to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava who is revered to be the incarnation of Lord Buddha. This two-day festival carries forwards the legacy of the culture of Ladakh and serves as a celebration of the win of good over evil. Hemis Festival traces its origin back to the 8th century and celebrates the existence of a significant spiritual figure in Tibetan history - Guru Padmasambhava. Other legends associated with the Hemis Festival are that the spiritual leader Guru Padmasambhava drove out the demon and evil spirits from Ladakh during the 8th century.

On this day, Hemis Monastery is adorned beautifully to host the ceremony. The colorful festival showcases the beautiful handicrafts of the area. Natives also dress up in lovely traditional attires and gather in the courtyard of Hemis Monastery, the biggest Buddhist Monastery of Ladakh. Lamas dance around the central flagpole to the tunes of drums, cymbals, and longhorns. The otherwise cold-barren desert comes to life during Hemis Festival.

Highlights of the Festival

The masked dances also known as ‘Chham Dance’ depict the triumph of good over the bad are the highlights of the Hemis Festival of Ladakh. These must-watch dances are also accompanied by sacred plays which keep spectators amused. Vibrant costumes worn by the Lamas also grab the attention. As per traditions, monks are supposed to wear long gowns, elaborate masks and a headgear. Every mask holds a special significance associated with it.  

In the end, a sculpture made up of dough and representing the evil powers is destroyed by the head of Black Hat dancers. This implies warding off the evil spirits. The broken pieces are then thrown in four different directions. The ritual indicates purification of soul after death.

‘Devil Dances’ are also vital aspects of the fiesta. ‘Chang’, a local liquor is served to the people during the festival. Exhibition of striking handicrafts adds to the charm of the gala. The head Lama or ‘Rinpoche’ is the presiding person of the event.     

The Tibetan Year of Monkey aka every 12th year adds to the fun quotient. Ladakh gets submerged in a strong wave of faith and spiritualism as the largest thangka (as high as two storeys of a building) of Guru Padmasambhava is showcased with great zeal. Various people gather to witness the thangka decorated with semi-precious gems, stones and pearls.

Main Attraction of the Hemis Festival

There are several highlights and main attractions of the Hemis Festival that you should definitely witness.

Chham Dance

The masked dances are also known as ‘Chham Dance’ depicting the triumph of good over the bad are the highlights of the Hemis Festival of Ladakh. These must-watch dances are also accompanied by sacred plays which keep spectators amused. Vibrant costumes worn by the Lamas also grab attention. As per traditions, monks are supposed to wear long gowns, elaborate masks, and headgear. Every mask holds a special significance associated with it.

In the end, a sculpture made up of dough and representing the evil powers is destroyed by the head of Black Hat dancers. This implies warding off the evil spirits. The broken pieces are then thrown in four different directions. The ritual indicates the purification of the soul after death.

Handicrafts

An incredible display of handicrafts is among the popular attractions of the festivals. The exhibition of striking handicrafts adds to the charm of the gala. The eye-catching gemstones, beautiful jewelry, wicker baskets, and carpets, the handicrafts of Ladakh adds charm to this amazing event. The stalls even sell intricate as well as awe-inspiring paintings and indigenous goods from Ladakh.

The Local Drink

Chang is a local liquor, which serves the people during the festival. This is a traditional Tibetan drink made from rice water infused with other ingredients that give this drink an exquisite taste.

Thangkas

The Tibetan Year of Monkey aka every 12th year adds to the fun quotient. Ladakh gets submerged in a strong wave of faith and spiritualism as the largest thangka (as high as two-story of a building) of Guru Padmasambhava is showcased with great zeal. Various people gather to witness the thangka decorated with semi-precious gems, stones, and pearls.

Duration of Hemis Festival

This is a 2-day long fiesta, which is celebrated in the month of May or June. Hemis Festival of Ladakh is going to be celebrated from 20th to 21st June 2021.

Where to celebrate the Hemis Festival?

Hemis Festival is an annual fiesta, which is celebrated in the Hemis Monastery of Ladakh. The monastery is located 40 km away from Leh town.

Culture Significance of the Festival

Besides being celebrated as the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, the Hemis Festival marks the victory of good over evil.

How to reach Hemis Monastery

Situated 45 km southeast of the town of Leh, Hemis Monastery is easily accessible by road. Here is the detailed information about how to reach Hemis Monastery to attend Hemis Festival.

By Air: Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh is the nearest airport to the monastery. You can hire a taxi from the airport to the monastery. The major cities of the country are connected from Leh by direct and indirect flights. Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar, and Chandigarh airports have direct flights for Leh.

By Road: This is the most convenient way to reach Hemis Monastery. Situated 7 km from Karu en route Leh via Manali, Hemis Monastery is easily accessible by bus, private car, and taxi. Regular buses ply to and from Leh for Hemis.

By Rail: The nearest railway station from Hemis Monastery is Chandigarh railway station, which is 705 km away. You can travel to Leh by bus, shared taxi, or private taxi and visit the monastery on the way.

Important Tips for Hemis Festival

Here are some of the important tips that you should keep in mind to prevent ruining the experience.

  • A large number of people visit the Hemis Festival every year. We suggest that you should be punctual and arrive early to the festival to experience the most of it.
  • The festival begins early in the morning and it follows a ‘first come, first serve’ rule. Therefore, the chances of getting good seats or even normal seats if you will reach late. Reach the monastery as early as you can. Besides, some of the seats are reserved for monks. Be mindful of that before sitting.
  • Keep water and dry eatable with you as the two-day festival starts in the morning and ends in the evening. There are stalls selling food but you will lose your seat if you visit them.
  • Make sure you will respect the rituals and traditions of the monastery while exploring it.

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