Every year there are loads of festivals and special events taking place in some of the most exotic places on the planet. Today we’re taking a look at two of the best festivals in Ladakh, northern India.
Where is Ladakh?
Ladakh is the region of the eastern two-thirds of the state of Jammu and Kashmir, the northernmost state of India. A vast highland desert between the Karakoram and the Himalayan ranges, Ladakh features Buddhist monasteries perched on soaring hilltops, rocky landscapes interrupted by small but brilliant patches of green, and ancient palaces clinging to sheer rock walls. It’s an otherworldly and deeply spiritual place surrounded by dramatic mountainous landscape.
Hemis Festival and Ladakh Festival
Hemis, the biggest monastery in Ladakh, is the site of an annual festival commemorating the birth of Guru Lpadmasambhava, who is said to have brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet. In Tibet he is considered the second Buddha. Masked dancers simulate combat between good spirits and evil demons to the cacophony of cymbals, drums and pipes. Young and old lamas (that’s the spiritual guys, not the shaggy four-legged mountain creatures) and commoners flock to the monastery to participate in the celebrations. The monastery also has the largest Thanka in Ladakh – a silk painting with embroidery depicting Buddha.
The Hemis Festival is held during the summertime, ideal for those who want to experience the spiritual side of the Himalayas without having to deal with freezing temperatures and heavy snow. And don’t confuse this with the Ladakh Festival, which takes place annually in early September.
During Ladakh Festival, Leh comes alive with the rhythm of drumbeats and dance. The streets and alleys are blazing hues of every colour as the people of the mountains flock to the cities wearing their finest gold and silver ornaments and exotic turquoise headgear. Monks also attend wearing their ritual regalia and elaborate masks, dancing in slow, languorous movements to the rhythm of cymbals, flutes and trumpets.
Take a look at our India Festivals and Events page for more on festivals and special events here and when to catch them.