Beautifully adorned, Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan monastery belonging to the Drukpa Lineage. Counted as one of the iconic monasteries in Ladakh, Hemis is perched on a mountain along the west bank of Indus River. People eagerly await to marvel at the numerous paintings or Thangkas that are carefully preserved here and are displayed on the famous Hemis Festival. A visit to the Hemis Monastery is one of the highlights of planning holidays in Ladakh.
The ancient Hemis monastery is said to be have existed before the 11th century. Naropa, the teacher of the translator Marpa and the pupil of the yogi Tilopa, are regarded as the founding fathers of the Kagyu-lineage of Buddhism, with, Hemis is its main seat. The first incarnation of Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso founded the monastery in 1630 when he was invited to Ladakh by the King Singay Namgyal.
What to see in Hemis
- A copper gilded statue of Lord Buddha is nestled within the monastery. Many other stupas that are said to be made of precious metal like gold and silver can also be seen here.
- A large statue of Guru Rimpoche is also quite interesting to witness.
- The monastery also has a museum within its premises. Numerous historical and religious paintings (Thangkas), carriers, weapons are displayed in the museum.
Hemis Monastery becomes alive during the annual Hemis Festival which is celebrated here in early June to honor Guru Padamasambhava. His birth anniversary falls on the 10th day of the fifth month of the Monkey year of Tibetan calendar. An interesting fact about the day is that it comes once after 12 years. Thus, Hemis celebrates the day with great fervor and enthusiasm.
As per beliefs, celebrating this festival bestows good health and spiritual strength. Many musicians play traditional music. The gala begins with early morning ritual when the tapestry adorned with pearls depicting the image of Guru Padmasambhava is exhibited. This is then admired and worshipped by all. A major highlight of the festival is the Masked Dance which are collectively known as Cham. These performances are part of Tantric tradition and monks could be seen performing Tantric worship.
- A sacred hermitage is located some 3 km way from the monastery. The hermitage is founded by the great Gyalwa Kotsang whose footprints and handprints can be found on the rock within the hermitage.
- Another nearby attraction to the monastery is Hemis National Park where snow leopards and rare animals dwell in their natural habitat.
Best time to visit
The best time to visit Hemis Monastery is during the Hemis Festival which takes place in June. Also its quite enjoyable to visit from May till September.