The popular Hemis festival of Ladakh began with a rich and spectacular ceremony leaving the spectators and visitors, both local and international, spellbound. The two day festival will come to an end on Saturday evening. The annual summer festival celebrated at the 300-year-old Hemis Monastery has emerged as one of the main tourist attraction of the greater Himalayas.
The grand two-day long Hemis Tsechu festival, which began Friday morning, celebrates the birth anniversary of Buddhist monk Guru Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rinpoche. He is also believed to be the second Buddha and brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet. Though the fest has been witnessing a dip in the number of local visitors, it has been consistently drawing more international tourists.
“It is true that the number of locals attending the festival has reduced, but it is becoming very popular for tourists to enjoy,” said Thuksey Rinpoche, head of the Hemis Monastery.
There may have been a dip in the number of tourists but monks continue to remain undeterred, adding that the festival held at the 17th century monastery firms up belief in Buddhism and its principles even further.
“The whole of the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar calendar is considered to be a Holy day. Many people come early in the morning and worship. Some of them also visit at night or late evening. Although there is no ceremony in the evening, they worship and take the blessings on this day,” Rinpoche added.
However, there is another dimension to the dip in the number of local residents. They may not be able to witness the ceremonies throughout the day, but they certainly take out time to receive the blessings after the day’s long work.
“In Ladakh, we have six months open and six months close. During these six months people have to try their best to work and make a living. So, many people cannot attend the festival due to their business,” says one of the monk leaders.
With Ladakh flourishing as a tourist destination over the years, the popularity of the festival has increased significantly among international visitors.
The Hemis festival, which is celebrated on the 10th day of the 5th month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar, is known globally for its rituals of sacred tantric dances that are believed to bring blessings of the Gods for the well being of sentient beings as well as peace and prosperity in the world. Monks are seen donning colourful silk costumes and brightly painted masks dance to the sounds of musical instruments like cymbals, longhorns and drums as the festival grow.
Earlier on Friday morning, the festival commenced with the rhythmic sounds of cymbals, drums and trumpets giving way to the peaceful prayers and rituals to Lord Padmasambhava. It was followed by the mystic mask dance, locally known as Chams.