One of the biggest and prime festivals of Leh Ladakh, the Hemis festival marks the birth anniversary of Ladakhi’s spiritual leader Padmasambhava. He acclaimed to be the founder of Tibet’s Tantric Buddhism. The celebrations of the Hemis begin on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month, which is also called as Tse-Chu in the local language. Carried on for two days, the festival is a colorful treat to the spectators, where mask dance performers take on the stage in the rhythm of folk music of Ladakh. The renowned Hemis festival is celebrated in the courtyard of the biggest Buddhist monastery, Hemis Gompa, which provides the festival with a sacred atmosphere.
Besides the vibrant performances, the festival has a lot of other things to offer to the tourists. As a part of the festivity, colorful fairs are also held in the monastery. During these fairs, one can buy a lot of souvenirs and handicrafts. Displayed as an exhibition, these traditional items are amongst the major highlights of the Hemis festival.
Bringing the colorful shades of festivities in the barren, deserted land of Ladakh, Hemis festival is one event that greatly represents the analogy of Ladakh culture. Like the other popular festivals in Leh Ladakh, Hemis festival in Ladakh also marks the victory of good over evil. Just past the harsh winters of Ladakh, Hemis festival feels like a welcome respite, that lures thousands of tourists to this remote place. And what better way to understand the people and culture of a region, other than its festivals.
Dedicated to the birth of Buddhist Lord Padmasambhava, who is the founder of Vajrayana Buddhism in Ladakh, Hemis festival is celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month. Evident from its name, the celebrations of this renowned festival take place in the Hemis Gompa or monastery, which, along with holding a sacred status, is also the largest of its kind in Ladakh.
Main Attraction of Hemis Festival:
Depicting the tales of war between good and evil, the Chams or masked performers dominate the festival with their uproaring dance moves. They are dressed in bright colored attires and paper-mache masks. Synchronization of their dance with the sounds of the traditional music instruments makes the event a lively and joyous affair. Not just a dance performance to bring in variety, the Chams hold a significant place in the Tantric traditions of Buddhism, therefore, are the prime attractions of Hemis festival.
With the rhythmic sounds of cymbals, drums, and trumpets, celebrations of the Hemis festival commences early in the morning. Starting from peaceful prayers and rituals to Lord Padmasambhava as the main ceremony at the first place to the mystic mask dance, which is locally known as Chams, the festival beautifully displays the culture and religious orientation of Ladakh. Visitors at this time of the year in Ladakh are amongst the lucky ones as they get to attend such an auspicious festival, plus the unique handicrafts, that are sold in a hefty amount at the monastery, can add to their interest. Antique objects and artifacts like Buddhist idols, Tibetan gems and jewelry, and hand-woven dresses are some of the prime attractions of the numerous shopping stalls, temporarily set during the festival.