Ladakh in Jammu and Kashmir is not only renowned for adventurous activities, but also for religious fairs, rituals, and festivals highlighting the famous Buddhist culture prevailing there. Especially, tourists from different parts of the world travel to Ladakh to be part of its famous Hemis Festival.

Hemis festival is a two-day festival organized by the Lamas leader or head located in Hemis Gompa for celebrating the birth anniversary of famous and motivational Guru Padmasambhava. He is also recognized as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. Even the festival signifies the victory of good over the evil ones.

 Date of the Festival

Every year, Lama head of the Hemis village decides the dates to celebrate the Hemis Festival according to the tenth day of the Tibetan lunar month. 

Location of the Hemis Festival

Hemis Festival is celebrated in one of the biggest Buddhist monasteries of the world i.e. the Hemis Monastery of Ladakh, which is at about 40kilometers from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir in India. Monk Padmasambhava is the central figure of the monastery and local area people belonging to the Tibetan Buddhism community recognize him as an incarnation of the Lord Buddha or the Second Buddha.

This is because; Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche has contributed a lot to build Buddha temple for the first time in Tibet. Furthermore, as the monastery remains covered with surrounding majestic mountains, it attracts many travelers visiting the Gompa. Holy thankas, as well as gold and silver-made stupas are other attractions found inside the monastery. 

The History behind the Celebration of Hemis Festival

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Tibetan Buddhism i.e. Himalayan Buddhism consists of Buddhist schools has a distinctive feature in the region of Ladakh in India. Testament of Ba writings available during ninth or tenth century revealed the life lead by the Monk Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism and the setup of the Buddhist monastery for first time in Tibet.

Later on, followers of Tibetan Buddhism established various other Buddhist monasteries in different regions of the world, including the Hemis Monastery, which was set up about three hundred years ago in Hemis village of Ladakh. Since then, people of the local area celebrate the Hemis festival in the month of July according to the Gregorian calendar.

Hemis Festival Celebration to Entice the Worldwide Tourists

During the whole festival, monks and other Tibetan Buddhist people project various art forms and an enchanting set of religious rituals to grab the attention of tourists for spending some time in the Himalayan mountain regions.

The main objective behind practicing traditional rituals is to honor the Lord Padmasambhava and to enhance both the spiritual and physical health of observers. Hence, if you plan to visit Ladakh this month, you will expect to view a large number of facets related to the festival, along with many exhilarating views of the Hemis Gompa. 

Seeking of the Guru’s Blessings

Every year, the ceremony of Hemis Festival commences in the morning by putting the portrait of Guru Padmasambhava at the top of the Hemis Gompa to allow other people to view it and seek his blessings. Reason for this is that people believe that viewing the Guru’s portrait and holy rituals associated with his birth anniversary enhances both their physical and spiritual conditions.

Traditional Music

Other than the display of Guru Padmasambhava, music remains an important part during the complete celebration. Devotees of Guru Rinpoche play traditional music in different types of instruments, such as cymbals and drums, along with few of the wind instruments.

A Ritual Specific to Lamas

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Hemis festival celebration consists of a ritual specific to the Lamas, while other people only have the right to view it. Accordingly, festival organizers position two raised platforms in the courtyard in front of the monastery’s main gate. The platforms have a dais and a pole, on which Lamas take their cushion seats. Later on, people honor the Lamas by offering different types of tantric ritual items, like crafter with butter and dough, a cup containing holy water, incense sticks and rice in front of them.

Cham Dance-Major Highlight of the Festival for Tourists 

Cham dance, known as masked dance is the major highlight, which inspires tourists from different regions of the world to participate in the Hemis festival. These dances mainly aim to depict the victory of good elements/deeds over the evil ones. The best thing about the dances is that they amuse visitors with a special appearance of Lamas in vibrant costumes and many sacred plays.

Moreover, according to traditions, monks wear elaborate masks, long gowns and headgear and each of the masks have a special significance related to the community of Tibetan Buddhism. To end the Chang dance ritual, head of Black Hat dancers destroy a sculpture consists of a dough that represents evil powers and thereby, highlights the cultural significance of the festival i.e. destroying of evil spirits by good deeds and elements. Finally, the head of the dancers throws each of the broken pieces in different directions to imply the purification of people’s soul after their death.