Monastic Festivals of Ladakh & Leh

by admin on September 17, 2012

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ladakh festivalThere are two routes to reach Ladakh, one through Kargil in J&K and another through Manali in Himachal Pradesh. Each route has its own share of spectacular sights, delights, passes and heights. Although there is an airport at Leh, it doesn’t let you go through the acclimatization process as you disembark directly into the festivities which may leave you rather breathless, of course you can always return by flight if you are time strapped.

Ladakh is best seen if you can hire a four-wheel drive vehicle and have an experienced mountain driver attached. So that you can leave all your worries behind, and enjoy the preamble, before the festive fervour of the local populace catches up with you, albeit one step at a time. Set against a backdrop of mountains, vales, meadows, mists and clouds each festival seems like a supreme fusion of man, the ever-changing weather patterns and the azure blue skies above. As it was part of the ancient silk-route, the mood is festive throughout the year, and set against Lunar Buddhist Calendar.

The year kicks off with Spituk Gustor festival held at Spituk, usually during the last week of January, just 8 kilometres from Leh at average height of 10,852 feet.  Set against a stark, stony, and snow-capped landscape, the Spituk Monastery or Pethup Gompa, was founded by Ode-e in the 11th Century as Red Hat institution. The Monastery was then taken over by Yellow Hat sect in the 15th Century.  It is now home to about hundred monks, who start the celebration with unveiling of a giant statue of Goddess Kali. It also houses a statue of Lord Shiva as its protector. The Lamas there are proficient in playing their traditional version of horns, cymbals and drums.

Up next is the Dosmoche Leh Likhir festival in early February, followed closely by Matho Nagrang and Yargon festivals. This is also followed and ended by the   Stok Tse Cue fest in the month of February.
Ladakh View

In May, one of the foremost celebrations come upfront not just in Ladakh(where it known as  Saka Dawa) but all over world in festivity, as it’s also known as Buddha Purnima –The full moon on this day is an appreciation of Lord Buddha, his arrival, his enlightenment day and his passing away, all at the same full moon time.  June starts with the Stongday Gustor, and towards the end of June, colourful silk clad Lamas wearing grotesque masks celebrate the Hemis festival, with a slow and ponderous dance at the 300-year-old Buddhist Monastery of Hemis Jangchub Choling located about 45 kilometres off Leh. This Monastery is also the richest and largest in the Ladakh. It commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava- initiator of the Tantric form of Buddhism in Tibet. Each dance represents a legend associated with the Guru and is accompanied by wind instruments, cymbals, drums and finally, conquest of the demons by a black hat sorcerer called GuruTrakpo, the vanquisher of demons. The month of June also ends usually with the festive Sachukul Gustor.

July has its full share of festivities starting with starting Kasrsha Gustor, the Yaru Kabgyot, the Phyang Tsendup, Kurzok Gustor. One of the famous festivals is Sant Naro Festival occurring in usually in the early parts of August wherein the Black hat cult perform a dance drama of the perpetual fight of Good vs. Evil and, triumph of the truth. August also has the Sani Nasjid festival, the special Ladakh festival in September, and ends with Deskit Gustor in October
November begins with Thiksay Gustor, moves on to the Chemday Wangchok, and the year usually culminates with Galden Namchot and the Ladakhi Losar in December. Please do check about the exact dates beforehand if you have any festival in mind, that you would love to visit and do remember that winters in Ladakh and Leh are extremely cold.

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