While I was in Leh in Ladakh, I was so fortunate enough that it was also the time where Ladakhi celebrate the Hemis Festival. It is an annual festival held in Hemis Gompa (monastery) and one of the largest gatherings of “drukpa” masters. Hemis is a town in Ladakh within the state of Jammu & Kashmir in India. This small town which is just 45 km away from Leh houses the Hemis Gompa, the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh. The festival is celebrated by the Ladakhi every June where the Tibetan Buddhist monks from monastery open the gates of the monastery to the public.
The Hemis Festival is held to celebrate the birth of Guru Padmasambhava (second Buddha). It is a 2-day long cultural presentation and extravaganza where in the courtyard of the monastery transformed into a big stage for the mask dance performances of the monks. This presentation is locally known as “chams”, which is the main highlight of the festival.
From the moment in which the celebration started, the Lamas appeared in the courtyard wearing colorful dresses and masks and performed splendid masked dances to the beats of the sacred tune from drums, cymbals and long horns. After a while, this amazing performance was followed by the destruction of an effigy which represents evil. Basically, the performances depict the triumph of good over evil. The head lama of the monastery presided over the function.
Here are some images that I took during the festival:
According to the Ladakhi legend, Lord Padmasambhava who is believed to be the founder and savior of Tibetan Buddhism, had protected the local people from the demons.
The owner of the local house where we stayed informed me that they consider this festival as one of the most important in Ladakh. They really prepare for this so they dressed up and wear the finest traditional robe for the occasion.
I was really fortunate that I witnessed the Hemis Festival and celebrated it with the Ladakhi. It was such a great opportunity for me as I learned something about their cultures and traditions.