Festivals in Ladakh

Losar: Welcoming the New Year

The Losar festival is celebrated in the eleventh month of Tibetan calendar, two months ahead of Tibetan New Year. In early 17th century, King Jamyang Namgyal decided to lead an expedition against the Baltistan forces in winter; therefore he decided to celebrate the festival two months before. Later it became a tradition and being celebrated in the eleventh month. The festival lasts for around a month, during which Gods, deities, ancestors and even the animals are fed without fail. Images of Ibex are made as auspicious symbol, walls of the kitchens are dotted and are believed to bring prosperity in coming year. The Metho (procession of fire) is thrown out chanting slogans and chasing hungry ghosts and evil spirits, and they return with rocks of ice as auspicious symbol and these are kept in the store. In some villages there is a tradition of making Old men and women, from this snow which last for a week. Over all the Losar all children and young and olds enjoy and celebrate the festival. All family members get together to celebrate if someone missing will have their cups filled with tea by their name.

Hemis Festival

Hemis festival is one of the most famous monastic festivals in June – July to commemorate birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The Lamas perform sacred masked dance, known as Chaam while they are accompanied by musical drums, long horns and cymbals. This is an extremely well-known festival. The most mysterious form of celebration are the mystic mask dances. The Mask Dances of Ladakh are referred collectively as chams Performance. Chams performance is a fundamental a part of Tantric tradition. Chams are performed only in the monasteries that practice Vajrayana teachings of Tantric Buddhism.

The three-day festival takes place from 9th to 11th. Especially the monkey year festival, which comes in a cycle of 12 years. During it the four-storey thanka of Guru Padma Sambhava is hung in the courtyard and other precious thankas are also exhibited. The day has been declared as the state holiday. During the festival, the locals get dressed-up in traditional clothes, where men wear cummerbunds and women wear vibrant headgears and loads of jewelry.

Phyang Festival

This festival is celebrated at Phyang Monastry 17 kms from Leh Town. Its also on the famous festivals in Leh which attracts many tourists all over the world. Phyang Tsedup takes place in July / August. Like other monasteries monks wearing colorful brocade robes and masks perform traditional dances. A huge Thanka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton, or silk appliqué, usually depicting a Buddhist deity, scene, or mandala) of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo, founder of the Degungpa way of teaching, is hung in the courtyard during the festival.

Yuru Kabgyat Festival/Lamayuru Festival

Yuru Kabgyat Festival is celebrated at Lamayuru Monastery which is 127 kms from Leh. This monastrary is located on Srinagar – Leh national highway. The 2-day festival takes place in July. Monks like other monastic festival perform mask dances. During the festival monks perform prayer and rituals to get rid of disaster and peace in the world.

This is a pre-historic monastery, which is called Yuru Gonpa by the locals. This festival is dedicated to Yuru Kabgyat and his mythical connection. This Gompa owes its origin to the Drikungpa branch of the Kagyudpa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. Local from the nearby villages also participate in the festival.

Sindhu Darshan

Sindhu Darshan is celebrated in Shey Manla, located 8 kms away from the main city of Leh. This is a 3-day festival, which happens from 1st to 3rd June on the bank of Indus river. The celebrations of this festival were started in the month of October 1997, for the celebration of unity as well as communal harmony along with the national integration. There is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of the country. At the time of the festival, the local artists from various parts of the country traditional dance performances. People from all religions, castes and regions become a part of this festival.

Kharsha Gustor (Zanaskar)

Karsha Gustor festival, is celebrated at Karsha monastery, the largest one in Zanskar in terms of the resident months, as it is home to around 100 lamas. This festival is celebrated remembering the victory of good over evil, at this largest Geluk-pa (Yellow Hat) monastery that is located on the slopes of Zanskar Mountains, right high above the Padum plain. During the festival, a Black Hat Dance is performed. Then there is also a masked dance (performed by the monks) on the same line as Chaam. This well-known festival is celebrated during the month of January. It is also known as the Spitok Gutor Zanskar Festival.

Ladakh Festival

Ladakh festival is celebrated from 20th to 26th September, every year in Leh and its villages. The inauguration ceremony takes place in Leh on large scale with the procession of various cultural troupes from different part of Ladakh. It passes through Leh Market dancing, singing with traditional music, in colorful traditional Ladakhi dresses, and finishes at Polo ground after performing their best dances and songs. The program includes Archery, Polo, and Mask Dances from the monasteries, traditional dances by cultural troupes from Villages. There are series of musical concert and dance program in Leh town. There are musical concerts too.

Stonday Gustor (Zanaskar)

The Stonday Gustor festival is an annual celebration held in the month of June. The venue for Stongday Festival is the Stongday monastery in Zanskar region of Ladakh. The festival’s dates are based on the 28th and 29th of the eleventh month in the Tibetan calendar and vary each year. The Stongday festival is celebrated with great popm and show and a highlight of the Gustor festival is the sacred dance performed by the monastery’s monks. Every year, hundreds of tourists plan their ladakh itineraries to accommodate the Stongday Gustor celebrations in their tour.