10 Amazing festivals of Ladakh
Ladakh is known for its grand festivals with large colourful masks; traditional dancing and singing are common at many of the cultural festivities in the Leh region. Leh, the former capital of Ladakh, was once the Himalayan Kingdom. It is now a district of Leh district in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir. It is the second-largest district in the country, area-wise. The Leh Palace, where the royal family resided, dominates the town. It was constructed as a replica of the Potala Palace.
Leh celebrates many religious festivals due to the massively influencing Tibetan Buddhist culture. Although the festivals appear similar in celebrating good over evil victories, each monastery has a deep history. The festivities are in honour of the great monks who founded the institution. Here are the major festivals in Ladakh
21st to 23rd February 2020
2nd to 3rd February 2019
Dosmoche is celebrated in the monasteries of Leh, Liker, and Deskit. The Leh Dosmochey, a two-day celebration in the Leh palace’s courtyards, is the most well-known among them. Monks from different monasteries take turns performing the Chams (sacred dance) annually. The festival begins on the last day of the year and ends on the first day of the Tibetan New Year. Offerings of thread crosses are prepared to protect the inhabitants from all evil and natural disasters. A procession takes place to take the offerings out of town, with the people whistling to ward off evil spirits.
2. Matho Nagrang
8th to 9th March 2020
18th to 19th February 2019
Matho monastery, the only Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism, celebrates this festival on the 15th day of the first month’s Tibetan calendar. Monks wearing colourful brocaded silk robes and masks representing different Gods and Goddesses perform dances during the two-day long ceremony. Upon completion of their month-long meditation in complete isolation, two oracles make an appearance. The oracles accompany the masked dancers and predict future events for the year ahead. The predictions make this festival renowned, and people from afar come to seek advice on how to tackle the disasters.
3. Stok Guru Tsechu
3rd to 4th March 2019
14th and 15th February 2019
The monks of Stok and Spituk Monasteries, with mask dances, celebrate the Stok Guru Tsechu for two days. Laypeople dress up as oracles and are prepared by the monks to receive deities’ spirits during the two-day festival.
4. Hemis Festival
11th to 12th July 2019
The celebration at Hemis monastery commemorates Guru Padma Sambhava (The lotus born) and is the most famous of all monastic festivals. The masked dancers tell the tales of how the founder of Tantric Buddhism faced and defeated evil. In addition, the festival displays a four-storied high Thangka (traditional painting) of Guru Padma Shambhava and other precious paintings in the courtyard.
5. Thiksey, Karsha and Spituk Gustor
27th and 28th October 2019
The two days long, Gustor is celebrated at the monasteries of Thiksey, Spituk, and Karsha. The dancers’ masks represent the different Guardians, protectors, and deities. Finally, the burning of an effigy culminates in the symbolic assassination of evil.
6. Ladakh Festival
22nd to 25th September 2019
On a large scale in Leh, the Ladakh festival occurs with an inaugural procession taken by various cultural troupes from Ladakh’s villagers. The march takes place in colourful Ladakhi costumes accompanied by traditional music, songs, and dancers passing through the central Bazaar. The 15-day-long festival includes archery, polo, mask dances, various monasteries, and traditional dances by cultural troupes from all over Ladakh.
7. Yuru Kabgyat
29th and 30th June 2019
The Yuru Kabgyat takes place at Lamayuru monastery near Leh for two days. Monks perform mask dances with prayers and rituals to ward off evil and bring peace to the world.
8. Phyang Tsedup
30th and 31st July 2019
Monks donning colourful brocade robes and masks perform traditional dances during the Phyang Tsedup. A giant Thangka (a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton or silk that depicts a Buddhist deity) of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo is hung in the courtyard during the festival. The first monastery introduced the Degungpa teaching of ‘Skyob Jigsten Gonbo’ in Ladakh.
25th – 27th February 2020
5th – 7th February 2019
During the month-long celebration of Lhosar, all beings from Gods, deities, and ancestors, including animals, are fed without fail. In addition, ibex images are put up as it is considered an auspicious symbol, and the kitchen walls are dotted with roasted barley (Tsampa) with the belief that it will bring prosperity for the year.
Metho – a fire procession while people chant slogans to chase away evil spirits. They later return with chunks of ice as an auspicious symbol, which is stored carefully. Some villages make snowmen and snowwomen that used to last for up to a week. It is a time to celebrate with family, friends, and neighbours.
10. Sindhu Darshan
12th to 14th June 2019
The Sindhu Darshan is a three-day festival at Shey Manla, about 8 km from Leh, on the Indus Riverbank. The festival was organized to mark as a symbol of unity, communal harmony, and national integrity. It was started in 1997 as a symbol to salute the brave soldiers and to promote domestic tourism in Ladakh. Artists from all over India perform traditional dances.
Check out our Trekking packages for Nepal, Bhutan, India, and Tibet.