Hemis Festival in Ladakh to kick off soon; here’s all you need to know

Masked dance performances, ancient legends, and breathtaking views of the biggest Buddhist lamasery in Ladakh are reason enough to attend the famous Hemis Festival.
Hemis festival
Buddhist monks perform the holy dance of cham during the celebration. Image: Shutterstock/Mai Tram.

Out of the many magical monastery festivals of Ladakh during which the otherwise sleepy villages tucked in crooks of the Himalayas come alive, Hemis Tse Chu is the most popular. Scheduled to run from July 8-9, 2022, the annual Buddhist festival is back with fierce performances, captivating music, and stellar views of one of Ladakh’s most revered lamaseries, Hemis Monastery.

The tenth day of the lunar month, Tse Chu, marks the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. One of the founding fathers of Tibetan Buddhism, Padmasambhava (also known as Guru Rinpoche) is believed to have protected the people of his kingdom against demons and dark forces. Ever since, local people began celebrating his legacy with a dedicated festival that signifies the victory of good over evil.

Hemis festival
Hemis Monastery in Ladakh is flocked by hundreds of tourists and locals to attend the annual festival. Image: Shutterstock/Annop Itsarayoungyuen.

Hemis Festival draws tourists from all across the world as every year, the monastery puts on a show of the rich culture of the Tibetan community that calls Ladakh home. The cultural extravaganza traces its origins back to the 8th century CE. The cham or ‘the dance of the gods’ is the main highlight, performed by the monks and lamas.

It depicts the magical feats of Padmasambhava in his eight manifestations to defeat the enemies of Buddhism. Slow dance moves paired with fanciful expressions and rhythmic drum beatings are enough to fascinate the crowds. In true mountain spirit, fierce masked dancers act out ancient legends and folklores, and Buddhist monks chant in chorus, as scores of tourists and locals watch the rituals unfold in disbelief.

Hemis festival
Extravagant headgears and vibrant traditional attires make a great spectacle for onlookers at Hemis Festival! Image: Shutterstock/Mazur Travel.

Watch the valleys, mountains, and rivers resonate with the beats of trumpets, cymbals, and drums during the frenzied two-day celebration. Expect to see dancing monks clad in vibrant traditional attires and extravagant headgears, and stalls selling local handicrafts and souvenirs. Sip on the local chaang, a Tibetan wine made from barley, millet, or rice grains, and listen to the folklores that take you back in time.

When here to attend the popular Hemis Festival, plan out to also visit the eponymous national park famous for its winter hikes and sightings of the elusive snow leopard. Other than Hemis Monastery, there are also other gompas that are worth a visit, like Gotsang, Stakna, and Shang. Take some time out to explore Hemis Museum‘s souvenir shop to get your hands on local paintings, wooden dragon statues, curios, postcards, and more.

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