The Hemis Festival is one of the most important festivals for the Buddhist of India. It is celebrated to honour the birth of Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche, who is regarded as the reincarnate of Lord Buddha. His birth, on the 10th day of the fifth month of the Monkey year, it is believed was predicted by Sakya Muni Buddha himself. The primary aim of Guru Padmasambhava was to improve the spiritual well being of the masses in general. He also went on to spread Buddhism in Tibet from where it spread to other parts of the world as well.
Hemis Monastery The Venue
The Hemis Festival is celebrated in Hemis Monastery which is located at a distance of 40 km southeast of Leh in Ladkah. Ladakh is one of the three geo cultural region of the beautiful north Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir.
The monastery, also known as the Chang Chub Sam Ling or "the lone place of the compassionate person.", was constructed by Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630. Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso was invited over by the king of Ladakh, Sengye Namgyal who not only offered the former religious estate but also accepted him as his teacher.
Within the monastery, a huge gilded image of the Sakyamuni Buddha with blue hair and a statue of Stagsang Raspa are major attractions.
Celebration of Hemis Festival
The Hemis festival is celebrated for two days and is a time for great rejoice for Buddhists staying not only in the nearby areas, but also all over the state and country. Also, a number of foreign tourists come in to be a part of this festival. Local people come dressed in colourful attires and interact with their friends and relatives while the foreigners try to extract maximum knowledge to make their visit more enjoyable.
In the rectangular courtyard of the monastery, the main events of the festival take place. The courtyard is wide and open with two raised square platforms, each three feet high and having a sacred pole in the center. On a dias, a small Tibetan table holds with the ceremonial items like cups full of holy water, uncooked rice, tormas made of dough and butter and incense sticks. There is place where the musicians play their traditional music and besides it is a small place which is reserved for the lamas to sit.
The festival commences with early morning ritual which is conducted on the top of the gompa. In this ceremony, portrait of "Dadmokarpo" or "Rygyalsras Rimpoche" is put on display amidst beating of drums, clashing of cymbals and the spiritual wail of pipes. This portrait is highly revered and devotees come from all around to pay their respect to it.
Later, the festival's most important attractions is the beautiful Mask Dance. Mask Dances are special features of those monasteries that follow tantric Vajrayana teachings and are also called Chaams. The dances depict the victory of good over evil. The du-khang of the temple is used as the green room for the dancers.
After every twelve years, a sacred thangka decorated with pearls and other precious stones is unfurled. A number of people gather in large number to see this thangka. The festival also sees hawkers and shopkeepers setting up stalls outside the monastery. Up on sale are a range of wares, mostly sovenirs that you can pick up before you leave back for your home.