The festivals and celebrations of Ladakh hail from a history of Tibetan Buddhism and the culture and traditions that stemmed from it throughout the years. They resonate with the people’s beliefs and hopes of good and peace. Festivals like the Hemis Tsechu, Losar, Sindhu Darshan, Phyang Tsedup festival, Dosmoche festival, Saka Dawa festival, Tak Tok festival, Matho Nagrang, Ladakh festival, Stok Guru Tsechu festival, Galdan Namchot, and Spituk Gustor are some of the festivals that Ladakhis celebrate! They are extremely colourful and exciting along with being peaceful and full of great vibes! It is a must to attend one of these festival while visiting the region in order to experience the true culture of Ladakh. Among the many hotels in Ladakh, many are situated in the surrounding areas of monasteries that host these festivals so choosing one closer to the festival you wish to attend is more convenient.
The History Of Ladakh
The first civilisations of Ladakh came into being when the Bön started evolving over 3,000 years ago. In the beginning, they worshipped different deities and this evolved into more organised worship of Buddhas. Later, Buddhism came into existence and after this the followers of Buddhism established a distinct culture with culture and traditions of their own.
Different ethnic communities such as the Tibetans, Ladakhis, Baltis, Khamis, Laotian, and Bhotiya, with their distinctive language, culture, and traditions, lived harmoniously with each other for a very long time in the mountains of the high Himalayas in Ladakh. It is not that they did not come in conflict, but they all co-existed and lived in peace in the mountains, finding a way to co-exist with each other.
What is the purpose of these celebrations?
The many traditions of Tibet that have now been practised by the Ladakhi people are believed to be an expression of their unity and worship of the supreme God. The Hemis Tsechu (To Be Happy) festival is celebrated at the onset of the monsoons. During the festival, all the people around gather and seek the blessings of God for their happiness and prosperity. They also worship the natural blessings of God and pray for protection against the whims of the Devil (Ying Wang). The locals believe that God always listens and fulfils their wishes. The practices of many of the Ladakhis’ festivals might be different, but their spirit and zeal for celebrations and celebrating the essence of their cultures and religions is the same. We have listed here some of the festival practices that one can observe during different festivals of Ladakh:
The Hemis Tsechu: June/July
The Hemis festival is celebrated as the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rimpoche, a spiritual leader. This is one of the more popular festivals of Ladakh known for being an extravagant affair! It falls on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar month also known as ‘Tsechu’. The two-day festival is hosted by the principle Gompa of the state, the Hemis monastery situated around 40 kms from the capitol city Leh.
The features of this festival are Cham dance performances that are performed by the Lamas in colourful costumes and masks. Cultural music and dances are enjoyed throughout along with local delicacies like the traditional hard drink Chang, distributed during the festivities.
One of the most exciting festivals to celebrate in Ladakh is Losar also known as the Ladakhi New Year and is the most important festival for people. This 15-day festival celebrated throughout the union territory, Losar is a time filled with local Ladakhi music and melodies ringing all over the place, folk dance performances, offering rituals, ceremonies and prayers at the monasteries, and so much more. The households are cleaned and decorated, local delicacies are prepared and much of the enthusiasm can be felt in the air. Metho ceremony consisting or several torches is also conducted.
Ladakh Festival: September
Abundant with diversity and various hues of Ladakhi culture, the Ladakh festival celebrated all over the region especially Leh, it is a 15-day affair. Games like polo and archery are also hosted during these days. Masked performances, musical concerts, and traditional folk performances are popular all over along with people adorning traditional colourful attire.
The festivals of Ladakh are very different from those in the rest of the country. As a culture, they celebrate the unique culture and heritage of the region while preserving and promoting the original teachings of Buddhism. Celebrations in Ladakh are such that they preserve the true essence of a festival while adding a touch of uniqueness to it. This is why festivals like the Hemis Tsechu, Losar, Sindhu Darshan, Phyang Tsedup festival, Dosmoche festival, Saka Dawa festival, Matho Nagrang, Ladakh festival, Stok Guru Tsechu festival, Spituk Gustor are so important for the culture and the lifestyle of Ladakhis. When you book a resort in Ladakh and plan a trip, make sure to include one or more of these festivals on your itinerary because attending cultural and religious celebrations of the region is the best way to get a raw insight into its history and people!