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Hemis Festival, Leh Ladakh

Ladakh is neatly perched at the convergence point of India, Tibet and China, and is blessed with innumerable mountain ranges interwoven with serpentine and exhaustive roads, which serve as a mecca for rally drivers, motorbike enthusiasts, mountain climbers, trekkers, and other adventure sports aficionados. Ladakh is also synonymous with the Hemis Monastery, Drokhpa villages, Pangong and Tsomo Riri lakes and the Nubra Division. Leh, the Crown jewel in this Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh, falls in the jurisdiction of the Indian State of Jammu and Kashmir. Widely spread across a rumbustious area of 45,110 square kilometers, Leh is the second largest district (in terms of land area) in India.

One of Ladakh's oldest carnivals is the Hemis festival. This festival is organized in the monastery, which is 300-year-old and also is Ladakh's richest monastery. The Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist Monastery (gompa) of the Drukpa Lineage, located in Hemis, Ladakh, India. Barely situated 45 km from Leh, this monastery was re-established in 1672 by King Sengge Namgyal of Ladakh. The Hemis festival takes place in the rectangular courtyard in front of the main door of the monastery. The space is wide and open with two raised square platforms, each three feet high and with a sacred pole embedded in the center.

A raised dais with a richly cushioned seat accompanied with a finely painted small Tibetan table is placed in company of certain ceremonial items - cups full of holy water, uncooked rice, tormas made of dough and butter and incense sticks. A group of musicians play some traditional music with four pairs of cymbals, large-pan drums, small trumpets and large sized wind instruments. Right next is a space assigned for the lamas to sit. The observance of these sacred rituals is believed to give spiritual strength and good health.

The Hemis Festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava (Guru Rinpoche), a representative reincarnate of Buddha. He is believed to have been born on the 10th day of the fifth month of the Monkey year as predicted by the Buddha Shakyamuni. It is further believed that the Guru's life mission was, and remains, to improve the spiritual progress of all living beings. In order to protect his people, the Tibetan Buddhism founder, Guru Padmasambhava, fought the evils. On his birth anniversary, all the people celebrate Hemis festival grandly; hence Hemis observes a major extravaganza celebrated with great gusto and flavor. The two-day Hemis Festival celebrates victory of good over evil. One can witness a mass of people dressed in bright and colorful clothes to celebrate this periodic and significant festival. The Tibetan calendar indicates that on lunar month's tenth day, the Lama Head organizes this Hemis Festival. The year 2016 will witness this festival from 14th to 15th July. Hemis Festival is one of those festivals which one should definitely visit. Tourists have a lot in store during this festival. Tourists can enjoy these festivities as spectators also.

During the Hemis festival, a colorful fun-fair is held. This fair has a number of stalls and shops offering a variety of souvenirs and handicrafts which can be purchased and taken back home as a token of remembrance. The items kept on sale are also displayed as a part of an exhibition, where people can choose from a large variety and also do window-shopping.

The ceremonies begin with an early morning ritual atop the Gompa where, to the beat of drums and the resounding sound of cymbals and pipes, the portrait of the sacred Guru Rinpoche is brought forward so that all the devotees can take his blessings. Mystic ritual dancing by monks (lamas) wearing elaborate, vibrant costumes and masks representing deities and evil spirits becomes the highlight of the festival. The dance performance in this festival is the central theme depicting victory of good over evil. The Mask Dances are referred collectively as 'Chhams', a highly choreographed sacred dance drama, which essentially forms a part of Tantric tradition performed only in those Gompas which follow the Tantric Vajrayana teachings and the monks perform tantric worship.

Ladakh offers its esteemed tourists a wide variety of accommodation to choose from that include Boutique hotels, homestays and luxury tents. Each of these accommodation types renders a personalized touch to the guest.

A traveler visiting this Himalayan Kingdom during Hemis can be assured of a truly majestic feel, not to forget the resonance and feel of the haunting notes of pipes hauntingly echoing within the mountains. Come and feel the whispering mountains….