Ladakh is one of the most beautiful places to visit in India. With scenic landscapes and white peaks, this region is the epitome of natural beauty. They say; if you want to experience the real culture of a place, you should visit it during a festival. So, if you want to know the true essence of Ladakh, you should visit it during the Hemis Festival.
Hemis is a small village located almost 40 km southeast of Leh in the Kharu tehsil. It is known to house the largest and richest buddhist Monastery, the Hemis Gompa also called the Hemis Monastery.
What is the Hemis Festival?
Hemis is a two-day festival that is celebrated to mark the birth anniversary of the legendary Indian Buddhist mystic, Guru Padmasambhava. Every year, it is held on the tenth day of Tse-Chu, a lunar month of the Tibetan calendar. The Hemis Monastery is decorated lavishly as the festival is celebrated here with sheer zeal and happiness.
Why is the Hemis Festival Celebrated?
Hemis in Ladakh is celebrated in honor of the Buddhist mystic, Guru Padmasambhava. He is also known as Guru Rimpoche, Padma Byung-gnas and Tibetan Slob-dpon. The locals believe that he was a reincarnation of Lord Buddha and hence celebrate the festival on his birthday. According to Buddhists, it marks victory over evil similar to the popular Indian festival, Dussehra. People from different parts of Ladakh visit the Hemis Monastery annually to be part of the largest festivities in the region.
Hemis Festival: A Short History
According to various legends, the locals living in Hemis were frequently tormented by evil spirits and demons during the 8th century. It is said that Guru Padmasambhava used ‘Vajrayana Buddhism’ to defeat the dark forces haunting his people. It is a form of Tantric Buddhism that was introduced by him in this Himalayan region.
Since then, the locals started celebrating this win over evil; it is still celebrated in order to keep negativity away and fill life with positive energy and hope.
How is the Hemis Festival Celebrated in Ladakh?
The Hemis Festival starts in the morning when the devotees seek blessings of Guru Padmasambhava’s portrait. A group of musicians play music all throughout the ceremony. The most interesting part of the festival is when people wearing masks perform their traditional dance, Cham. Through different steps of this slow dance form, it displays the scenes of war between good and evil. When the dance ends showcasing the triumph of good over the dark forces, the locals can be seen celebrating. These dancers are dressed in colorful Lamas (A traditional Buddhist attire) and when they move together the sight will leave you in awe!
Hemis in Ladakh turns into a vibrant place as the beats of cymbals, trumpets, and drums make the people vibe together in excitement. The locals are seen dressed in one of their best traditional garments to celebrate the great day. The 300-year-old Hemis Monastery wears a spectacular appearance as it is decked up for the festivities.
When will it Be Held in 2022?
According to the authorities in Ladakh, the Hemis Festival 2022 dates are 8th and 9th July. The tiny town of Hemis in Ladakh comes to life during this special feast. If you want to experience the essence of Ladakh’s culture, mark your calendars so you don’t miss the major festival.
What is Popular During Hemis in Ladakh?
- Cham Dance: Like mentioned earlier, this dance depicting the victory of good over evil is the main attraction during the festival. If you are visiting Ladakh during this time, you should definitely not miss this.
- Handicrafts: Every year, the locals organize a handicraft exhibition where they sell their traditional clothes, bags, accessories, souvenirs etc. The tourists can be seen thronging the shops to buy their favorite handicraft items.
- Chang: During the festival, a local delicacy, Chang is served to the visitors. This drink is similar to beer and is made after brewing millet (finger-millet), barley or rice grains.
Where to Stay?
Visitors planning to attend the Hemis Festival in Ladakh can stay in the guest house at the Hemis Monastery, but you will have to book a room in advance. In case you are unable to get accommodation, you can also stay at the different hotels located near the monastery. Hotel Royal Palace, The Driftwood Ladakh, Ladakh Sarai Resort etc. are some good options to stay in this quaint town.
What to Remember?
Hemis Festival is a religious event, so you should carry proper clothing and respect their culture. It is also advised not to use cameras inside the prayer hall of the monastery and its museum as it is strictly prohibited.
The Hemis Festival Tour in Ladakh is a great way to explore the lifestyle of the locals and blend in to become a part of their celebrations. You can also extend your trip to Ladakh and explore the different tourist attractions in the region to make your trip memorable.