events in ladakh

12 Festivals to explore in Ladakh

1 month ago

Although we might look at Jammu and Kashmir as one region with similar traditions and culture but these two have a lot of traditional and cultural differences between these regions. Also, these traditions are pretty different than what we see all over India. The traditions of a region are predominantly decided by the people that live in that region.

In Ladakh, the majority of people belong to the Buddhist religion. So we can see a similarity between the traditions of Ladakh and Tibet, Bhutan or even China for that matter.

If you wish to see the tradition and culture of Ladakh at its best, visit Ladakh during one of its festivals. Here is a list of some popular festivals in Ladakh. Please note these festivals follow the Tibetian calendar the dates may vary.

1) Hemis Festival

Celebrated in the Hemis Monastery, Hemis Festival is celebrated in the fifth month of Tibetian Lunar Calender. It is celebrated on the occasion of the birth anniversary of Padmasambhava. It is celebrated as a day of triumph of good over evil. The Hemis festival is celebrated since the establishment of Hemis Monastery, about 100 years ago. Chams or the dance of the Lamas is the main highlight of the festival. In the dance, the Lamas dress in bright colored traditional dress and having adorning masks. The performances are based on themes of evil and good. According to the Gregorian calendar, the festival is celebrated at the end of June.

Festivals in Ladakh
Festivals in Ladakh

2) Losar Festival

Losar Festival is the New Year Celebration of the Ladakhi Tradition. “Lo” means year and “Sar” means new. It is celebrated all over Ladakh in every house and monastery. It is celebrated by offering food to the deities. All over the Ladakh, people started buying new clothes and cleaning houses a month before the festival start. It marks the start of the new Tibetian Lunar year. It takes place for 15 days where the first three days are the most prominent. The Losar Festival is known to have started even before the arrival of Buddhism, before 17th AD. It is celebrated towards the end of December and beginning of January.

Festivals in Ladakh

3) Spitok Gustor

Spitok Gustor is the winter festival of Ladakh. It takes place in the eleventh month of the Tibetian Calender. Gustor means sacrifice; it is a traditional ritual of Buddhist Monasteries. The Spitok Gustor festival takes place in the Spitok Monastery of Ladakh. People celebrate this festival by performing traditional dances and preparing traditional food. The festival is celebrated for world peace. The symbols of evil, a statue, or a dummy figure are burnt as a way to ensure peace and well being of the people.

Festivals in Ladakh

4) Dosmoche Festival

Dosmoche festival is celebrated in Likir and Diskit Monastery. It takes place just around the Losar festival. It also is one of the new year festivals just like Losar. It was started by the Royals of the Ladakh as a way to celebrate after King Gongdup won the battle against the invaders of Nyungti. The festival has an interesting ritual, where they makeup idols of wheat and burns them as a symbol of burning of evil. The Dosmoche festival is celebrated between the months of January and March according to Gregorian Calendar.           

Festivals in Ladakh

5) Stok Guru Tsechu festival

Aside from the captivating valleys and amazing mountain limits in the North, Ladakh is additionally known for the celebrations held per year. One of the significant celebrations among them is Stok Guru Tsechu Festival in Ladakh. According to the Tibetan calendar, it starts on the ninth and tenth day of the first month of the year.  The seat of the Ladakhi royals, which is around 20 km toward the South of Leh, is the main spot from where the festival begins. Masked dances are the specialty of this festival.

Festivals in Ladakh

6) Saka Dawa Festival

Saka Dawa or Saga Dawa is celebrated in the fourth month of Tibetian Lunar Calender and the June of Gregorian Calendar. It is celebrated as on this day it is believed that Buddha had attained enlightenment. It is the holiest festival in Ladakh. “Saka ” star and “Dawa” means Lunar.

During this festival, people avoid the following things as a way to follow Buddha’s teachings.

1) Act of Killing

2) Act of Stealing

3) Act of Sex

4) Act of lying and deception

5) Act of recreations (alcohol, tobacco)

6) Eating once only once in a day

7) Sleeping on high raised beds or sitting on chairs

8) Participating in singing dancing

Festivals in Ladakh

7) Yuru Kabgyat Festival

The Yuru Kabgyat is a well-known festival of Lamayuru or Yuru Monastery. It is also called the Lamayuru celebration and attended by people from all over the world.  Yama and Padmasambhava who are depicted in the dance dramatization are celebrated in the Yuru festival. Yama is considered to the master of death and Padmasambhava as the second Buddhist after Lord Buddha. It is accepted that he is a defender of the animals and steeds. Prayer wheels are additionally a significant feature of the Yuru Kabgyat Festival. Dance and Drama are performed by Buddhists cover artists to satisfy the gods to ward off the evil spirits.                           

Festivals in Ladakh

8) Stongday Gustor

Stong day Gustor Festival is held in the month of July in the Stongday Monastery of the Zanskar region. The highlight of the Stongday Festival is the sacred dance performed by the monks. It is celebrated in the 11th month of Tibetian Lunar Calendar.

Festivals in Ladakh

9) Galdan Namchot Festival

The Galdan Namchot celebration in Ladakh is celebrated as the birthday of the Tibetan saint-scholar, Tsongkhapa. He was the originator of the Gelukpa School that teaches Tibetan Buddhism since the fourteenth century. During the celebration, all the religious communities, open monasteries and houses are lit up. This celebration implies the beginning of the New Year festivities in Ladakh that goes on until the Dosmoche celebration. During the celebration, a wide range of customary dishes are made, for example, vegetable and chicken noodle soup or Thupkas, people visit their friends’ homes and enjoy. ‘Khatak’, a conventional stylized scarf is usually gifted by people to each other.

Festivals in Ladakh
Festivals in Ladakh

10) Phyang Tsedup Festival

30th-31th July usually marks the start of the noticeable Phyang Tsedup Festival that celebrated in Phyang Monastery in Ladakh.  One can see smiling Lamas in lively clothing and depicting various characters of the dance. Priests perform Chham. The Phyang Tsedup Festival is held on the second and third day of the sixth month of Tibetan Calendar which falls in July-August. Masks take the spotlight of the celebration.                              

Festivals in Ladakh
Festivals in Ladakh

11) Karzok Gustor

The Korzok Gustor happens each year, in the month of July or August, at Korzok, one of the highest towns in the nation. It’s a celebration for the nomadic people of the place. They come together in their traditional attires and celebrate the festival. This function is known as Argham (the executing) and represents the triumph of good over evil. The majority of the occupants are Changspa travelers. It’s a two-day festival and the main highlight is lamas dance.                   

Festivals in Ladakh
Festivals in Ladakh

12) Tak-thok Tse-Chu

Tak-Thok Tse-Chu is a significant celebration which is held in July and August and draws countless visitors and local residents. Tsechu festival is a festival that celebrates Padma Sambhava’s endeavors. Padma Sambhava is viewed as the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. According to the Buddhist calendar it is commonly celebrated on the tenth day of the Lunar Tibetan Calendar. The word Dak Thok signifies “Dark Rock” in Ladakhi. The Tsechu Festivals highlight the Chham dance where both the priests and individuals participate. Tsechu is additionally a festival where the local residents decorate themselves in the best of clothes.

Festivals in Ladakh
Festivals in Ladakh

Dhanshree Gadhikar

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