Hemis festival is one of the most popular festivals in Ladakh. Leh-Ladakh is a dream destination for all travel enthusiasts with its mountainous ambiance and simple living. Situated close to Leh is the Hemis Ladakh Monastery where an important festival is celebrated every year. Travelers flock to the Hemis Festival to experience this spectacle and enjoy the festivities. If you are planning to experience it for yourself first-hand, here’s everything you need to know.
What is the Hemis Festival and why is it celebrated?
Hemis in Ladakh is a famous monastry, which is located 45 kilometers from Leh and is one of the most important gompas in Ladakh. Hemis Gompa Fair is also popular around the world. Built in 1630 under the reign of Sengge Namgyal, the monastery flourished under the dynasty for ages. It is also popular for being the central place for the annual celebration attracting tourists from all around the world.
The Hemis festival in Ladakh is celebrated on the occasion of the birth of Guru Padmasambhava who is the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. The central theme of the celebration is the victory of good over evil as their guru fought evil to protect his people. During the days of the celebration, the people cleanse themselves and their surroundings of all bad influences for prosperity and spiritual guidance.
Going by the Tibetian calendar, the festival is on the tenth day of the lunar month and celebration dates are decided by the head Lama. The two-day celebration will see locals dressed in bright traditional attire and the Lamas perform the Chaam; a sacred dance wearing masks to the tune of drums, cymbals, and horns. The Hemis festival for 2021 is from June 20th to June 21st.
Highlights of the Hemis festival
- On the day of the festival, the 300-year-old Hemis Monastery comes to life with the sound of drums, cymbals, and trumpets along with colorfully dressed performers and hundreds of people gathered to enjoy the celebration. The festival begins with all the followers seeking blessings from the Guru’s portrait and the commencement of performances.
- Chaam which is one of the main events of the festival is a dance performed by the Lamas wearing grotesque masks representing the evils of existence and characters out of the mythological stories. There is even a Padmasambhava dance which depicts the guru subduing the Ruta demons. The dance starts with slow music, which eventually builds in tempo and intensity and reaches the peak when the leader strikes down the devil’s idol which is made out of clay.
- Every 12 years there is a unique addition to the celebration where a giant two-storey tall ‘Thanka’ which portrays the guru Padmasambhava is added to the event. The Thanka is beautifully embellished with semi-precious stones, pearls, and other gems which demonstrate the amazing handiwork of the locals making it the highlight of the celebration. This was last unveiled in 2016 and the next time will be in 2028 making it the most visited years of the celebration.
- The souvenirs are a major part of the event as the stalls are full of little idols, trinkets, ladakh handicraft and amazing pieces of indigenous art work that you can take back with you. You can also find some fantastic shawls and hand-woven rugs in traditional bright colors and wall hangings for the house. Other things include pottery, bags, wicker baskets, postcards, books and more.
- Similar to all celebrations, the Tibetans have their own drink for festivals called Chang. This drink made out of highland barley is a low-alcohol beverage that is a must-try for all visitors, think of it like Tibetan beer! There’s also a fun drinking ritual where you take three sips out of the cup which are immediately refilled and then down the whole cup in one shot.
The most common way to get to Hemis Monastery is by hiring a cab from any of the pickup locations such as Leh or the airport. You can reach Leh by flight and take a cab to the monastery, 35km from the airport. If you take a train, you will have to get off at Jammu Tawi Railway Station and hire a cab to get to the town of Hemis. It’s also possible to get here by Bus. All you need to do is take a bus from any of the starting points such as Srinagar or Manali and rent a cab from Leh to the monastery.
A trip to Leh- Ladakh is an experience out of this world and something that everyone should experience at least once in their lifetime. However, when you’re planning for it, it is worth visiting the Hemis Monastery Ladakh during the time of the festival and enjoy the spiritual side of the destination. To make your journey all the more memorable, you can take a bus trip to Leh and enjoy the stunning scenery on the way. With redBus as your partner, you can be assured to find bus tickets online at great prices and have a comfortable journey.
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