With displaying of the sacred bone ornament, ceremonial performances by the monks and an aim to promote tourism and cultural heritage, Hemis Festival will be held on 14th and 15th July, 2016 accompanied by the grand Naropa Festival – from July 1 to 31 – in Ladakh district in Jammu and Kashmir, India.
Ladakh is renowned as an enchanting place dotted with snow-clad Himalayas, high passes, peaceful monks and beautiful monasteries, and Hemis Festival provides yet another feather to its cap. Hemis festival is celebrated at the Hemis Gompa (Monastery). It is believed to have been founded in 1630 by the first incarnation of Stagsan Raspa Nawang Gyatso, who was invited to Ladakh by the King Singay Namgial and was offered a religious estate throughout the region. The Buddhist monastery belongs to the Drukpa Lineage order and follows the Tantric Vajrayana Teachings. It is the wealthiest monastery in India and famous for its rich collection of ancient remnants like the copper-gilt statue of Lord Buddha, stupas made of gold and silver, sacred Thangkas, murals and various artifacts.
The colourful two-day pageant, Hemis festival, commemorates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava (reincarnate of Buddha)- the initiator of Tibet Tantric Buddhism. He is believed to be the local savior who banished demons and evil spirits, and combining the teachings of Buddhism and Tibetan culture, established a new way of living – entwined with prayers, austere life and a higher calling. The festival takes place on the 9th and 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month (called Tse Chu). All the same, the festival takes an auspicious turn every 12 years in the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, when the two-storey high ‘Thangka’ depicting Padmasambhava is displayed – that shall be happening in 2016.
The Magnificent Ceremony
The locals put on their best traditional garbs and the monastery is decorated with confectioneries and flowers. Lamas (called ‘Chhams’) of the Hemis monastery perform splendid masked dances and sacred plays to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. The Lamas dress themselves in dazzlingly patterned brocades and masks. The masks, brilliantly colored and signifying aspects of good and evil, are designed as humble, divine faces, animals, skeletons and numerous frightful figurines. One of the major attractions is an elaborate colourful fun fair outside the monastery and the numerous stalls selling colourful souvenirs and handicrafts – traditional items such as garbs, hats, masks, good luck charms, etc.
Quotes Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, one of the spiritual heirs of the Drukpa lineage: “The artists are very senior monks of the monastery who train thrice a week throughout the year to ensure that their steps and gestures are in accordance with the holy texts”. The festival will also witness the largest assembly of Drukpa masters offering their teachings and sermons, besides the ceremonial unfurling of the historic silk thangka on July 14, 2016.
The spiritual programme, Naropa Festival, takes place every 12 years. “The culminating event is the display of the famed sacred six bone ornaments by His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa, head of the Drukpa Orde. The ornaments belonged to Naropa, the 11th century Indian saint and are some of the holiest treasures of the Himalayas,” Rinpoche says. The monastery is expecting more than 1.5 million people from India and abroad to attend the event. Rinpoche says, ”We have already acquired 300 acres of land where camps will come up for the visitors”.