Ladakh is known for its grand festivals with large colorful masks, traditional dancing and singing are a common sight at many of the cultural festivities that take place in the Leh region. Leh, the former capital of Ladakh, was once a Himalayan Kingdom. It is now a district of Leh district in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is the second largest district in the country, area wise. The Leh Palace where the royal family resided dominates the town. It was constructed as a replica of the Potala Palace.
Leh celebrates a lot of religious festivals due to its massive influence by the Tibetan Buddhist culture. Although the festivals appear to be similar in celebrations of the victories of good over evil, each monastery has its deep history, and the festivities are in honor of the great monks who founded the institution. Here are the major festivals in Ladakh
Dosmochey is celebrated in the monasteries of Leh, Liker, and Deskit. The Leh Dosmochey, a two-day celebration in the courtyards of the Leh palace, is the most well-known among them. Monks from different monasteries take turns to perform the Chams (sacred dance) annually. The festival begins on the last day of the year and ends on the first day of the Tibetan New Year. Offerings of thread crosses are prepared to protect the inhabitants from all evil and natural disasters. A procession takes place to take the offerings out of town with the people whistling to ward off evil spirits.
2. Matho Nagrang
Matho monastery the only Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism celebrates this festival on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. Monks wearing colorful brocaded silk robes and masks that represent different Gods and Goddesses perform dances during the two-day long ceremony. Two oracles upon completion of their month-long meditation in complete isolation make an appearance. The oracles accompany the masked dancers and predict future events for the year ahead. The predictions are what makes this festival renowned and people from afar come to seek advice on how to tackle the disasters.
3. Stok Guru Tsechu
The monks of Stok and Spituk Monasteries with mask dances celebrate the Stok Guru Tsechu for two days. Laymen dress up as oracles and are prepared by the monks to receive the spirits of deities, during the two-day festival.
4. Hemis Festival
The celebration at Hemis monastery commemorates the birth of Guru Padma Sambhava (The lotus born) and is the most famous of all monastic festivals. The masked dancers tell the tales of how the founder of tantric Buddhism faced and defeated evil. A four-storied high Thangka (traditional painting) of Guru Padma Shambhava and other precious paintings are displayed in the courtyard, during the festival.
5. Thiksey, Karsha and Spituk Gustor
The two days long Gustor is celebrated at the monasteries of Thiksey, Spituk, and Karsha. The masks, the dancers wear represents the different Guardians, protectors, and deities. The burning of an effigy culminates the symbolic assassination of evil.
6. Ladakh Festival
The Ladakh festival takes place on a large scale in Leh with inaugural procession taken part by various cultural troupes from villagers of Ladakh. The march takes place in colorful Ladakhi costumes accompanied by traditional music, songs and dancers pass through the central Bazaar. The 15-day long festival includes archery, polo; mask dances performances by various monasteries and conventional dances by cultural troupes from all over Ladakh.
7. Yuru Kabgyat
The Yuru Kabgyat takes place at Lamayuru monastery near Leh for two days. Monks perform mask dances with prayers and ritual to ward off evil and bring peace to the world.
8. Phyang Tsedup
Monks donning colorful brocade robes and masks perform traditional dances during the Phyang Tsedup. A large Thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk that depicts a Buddhist deity) of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo, is hung in the courtyard during the festival. It was the first monastery, which introduced the Degungpa teaching of 'Skyob Jigsten Gonbo' in Ladakh.
During the month-long celebration of Lhosar, all beings from Gods, deities, and ancestors including animals are fed without fail. Ibex images are put up as it is considered as an auspicious symbol, and the kitchen walls are dotted with roasted barley (Tsampa) with the belief that it will bring prosperity for the year.
Metho – a fire procession takes place while people chant slogans to chase away evil spirits. They later return with chunks of ice as an auspicious symbol, which is stored away carefully. Some villages make snowmen and snowwomen that used to last for up to a week. It is a time to celebrate with family friends and neighbors.
10. Sindhu Darshan
The Sindhu Darshan is a three-day festival that takes place at Shey Manla about 8 km from Leh, on the bank of the Indus River. The festival was organized to mark as a symbol of unity, communal harmony and national integrity. It was started in 1997 as a symbol to salute the brave soldiers and to promote domestic tourism in Ladakh. Artists from all over India perform traditional dances.
Other articles on Ladakh:
Ladakh Popular for summer Himalayan Treks
Amazing Photos of Ladakh that will entice you to go trekking.
People of Ladakh
Monasteries to stay and unwind in Ladakh
Best reasons to visit Ladakh
Six best treks in Ladakh
Buddhist Mask dances by Tibetan monks
Travel Guide to Ladakh
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