Nature in its pristine form, landscapes that seem to be out of this world, a sense of calm and peace that seems to transcend all barriers of time and space – that, for you, is Ladakh. It is a place where one can hear their soul speak. The barren lands of lifeless Ladakh can make you feel the pinch of isolation. The daunting landscapes, jagged mountains and tortuous roads are the challenges you would want to face, once in your lifetime. The beautiful shades of blue water and the dusty serenity makes one wonder in awe about the simple beauty that seems to engulf you all around.
“Somewhere, something incredible is waiting to be known” – Carl Sagan
Though the natural beauty of Ladakh captivates and enthrals, there is more to the place in the form of a vibrant culture which seems timeless in nature. Ladakh is replete with the most vibrant culture, exceptional traditions and colourful carnivals. The picturesque Buddhist monasteries which also known as gompas and the colourful prayer flags, fluttering in the winds as if revelling in the spirituality that seems to be in the air, promote an atmosphere which is so soothing, even the most disturbed minds are bound to find peace.
Festivals are a colourful and vibrant part of the culture of Ladakh! These beautiful festivals celebrate everything – the destruction of evil, the harvest season, the return of monks, fight between good and evil, offering to the Indus and what not. Each festival is spectacular; the charm is on an entirely different level.
So, when you decide to visit Ladakh, make sure you plan your trip in a way where you can enjoy these festivals as well.
Where – Begins at Leh
When – September
The Ladakh festival clearly shows the cultural diversity of Ladakh. It represents the traditions in a stunning way. There is so much to experience – dance, drama, handicraft exhibition, polo, traditional painting exhibition and a vibrant carnival as well. This is the most popular festival of Ladakh for which people flock from all over India. People dance and sway to the rhythmic musical notes as they celebrate the harvest season.
Attraction – Polo, Archery, Carnival, Mask Dance
Where – Hemis Monastery
When – Every year, on the 10th day of Tibetan Lunar month called as Tse Chu
The largest monastery in Ladakh, which is the Hemis Monastery, holds a 2-day celebration, commemorating Guru Padmasambhava’s birth anniversary every year. The entire monastery is decorated with flowers giving it a sprightly look and the atmosphere is pleasing to all senses! The Lamas of the monastery put on colourful masks and perform traditional dance and music which depicts the good winning over evil. The gorgeous outfit of the Lamas or “chhams’ is worth admiring even to its last thread. This 2-day extravaganza will change your perspective about life in Ladakh.
Attraction – Colourful masks and fine silk robes of the performers are eye-catching.
Where – Across Ladakh and Leh
When – Every year the dates and even location are changed
You know that it’s time for the Losar festival beginning when all of Ladakh is preparing for the New Year. People lighten up their houses and monasteries and make offerings in the monasteries. There is also a procession of fire known as the Metho, where the ghosts and evil spirits are chased away and slogans are chanted, after which they return with rocks of ice, which are then sculpted into old men and women as an auspicious symbol. The whole family sits together and spends time together, while those missing have their cups filled with tea in their names.
Attraction – Ibex deer dance, the stage show of good vs evil.
Where – Phyang Monastery
When – The annual Tse-dup is held on the 2nd and 3rd day of the 6th Tibetan month, which generally falls in July-August.
This is that one festival of Ladakh where the oracles are remembered. The monks exhibit beautiful silk robes with splendid colours. A splendid mask dance is performed which marks the sacred element of the festival. There are dramas presented which showcase the teachings of Lord Buddha in a vivid perspective. The idea behind the drama is so clear that it makes its own space in your mind. This festival is one that you must witness yourself!
Attraction – Sacred Mask dances, a structure raised in the memory of Skyabje Jigten Gombo who was a saint.
Where – Monasteries of Thiksey
When – February
This festival is celebrated in the Leh palace, Nubra valley and lower Ladakh to ensure the safety and well-being of the people living there. Amidst the drums, chhams are performed by the monks turn by turn in the monasteries. The monks of the monasteries also prepare thread crosses which secure the evil spirits and hungry ghosts, and act as a guard against the natural calamities which may threaten the wellbeing of the people. On the second day of the 2-day festival, the thread crosses are burnt outside the town in procession, while the people whistle to chase away the spirits.
Attraction – Preparation of thread crosses to drive away the evil.
Pure and vibrant, such are the festivals of Ladakh, where people believe that the only harm done is by the evil spirits and the hungry ghosts. These festivals are where people protect each other, celebrate with each other and breathe in the serenity. To get the best out of your Ladakh experience, the memories of the enchanting festivals is a must. The traditions will stun you with their simple rituals and grandeur of their celebrations. The colourful carnivals are going to remain etched on your mind. So what are you waiting for? Ladakh awaits with open arms and with an endearing warmth in its heart. Wherever you travel to, make sure you stay at the stunning Sterling Holidays for a memorable trip.