Location : Jammu
& Kashmir in India.
Ladakh, Jammu Kashmir
June - July
Courtyard, Hemis Gompa
The birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava.
The courtyard of Hemis Gompa - the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, is
the stage for the famous 'Hemis' festival, that celebrates the birth
anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The colourful two day pageant falls on
the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar month. The local people are seen
dressed up in their finest traditional garb for the occasion.
Spectacular masked dances and sacred plays by Lamas called 'chhams' are
performed around the central flagpole, to the accompaniment of cymbals,
drums and long horns. Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism is
believed to have fought with demons for the safety of the local people. The
Lamas wear colourful costumes, i.e. long brocade gowns set off by quaint
headgears. Masks worn by the lamas represent various guardian divinities of
the Dugpa order, of which Hemis is the leading establishment in Ladakh. The
dances end with the ritual destruction of a sacrificial offering of a human
figure made of dough by the leader of the Black Hat dancers. The pieces are
then scattered in the four directions depicting a re-enactment of the
assassination of the Tibetan apostate king Lang-dar-ma by a Buddhist monk in
AD842 or cleansing of the soul after death.
'Rimpoche' or the head lama presides over the function.
The lamas recite mantras associated with the various episodes of the
'chhams'. The festival takes an auspicious turn every 12 years in the
Tibetan Year of the Monkey, when the two-storey high ' Thanka' depicting
Padmasambhava is displayed. This famous 'Thanka', richly embroidered with
pearls and semi-precious stones, is due to be displayed next in AD 2004.
A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special
highlight of the festival. The so-called 'devil dances' constitute an
important element in the social entertainment of the Ladakhis. The
uproarious song-and-dance mirth, created by these mask dances, which
invariably depict the victory of the right over evil, is kept by the
all-round consumption of huge bowls of 'chang', Ladakhis own country liquor.
Arriving At The Hemis Festival
Hemis lies 45-km southeast of
, the headquarters
By Flight :
The nearest airport is at Leh
By Roadways :
By car, Hemis is an easy day trip from Leh.
By bus, services are only frequent during the festival; at other times a
single daily service leaves at 9.00 am and returns at 12.30 pm, leaving no
time to have a good look round.