Hemis Festival 2016 Dates
Thursday-Friday 14-15 July 2016
Hemis festival of Leh Ladakh is one of the major Buddhist festival celebrated as birthday of Guru Padmasambhava also known as Lord Rimpoche – the representative reincarnation of Buddha . Although the birthday of Guru Padmasambhava is celebrated by all the Buddhists all over India, the Hemis festival celebrated in the Hemis Monastery located 40 kms away from Leh in Ladakh district of Jammu and Kashmir is famous for its extravagant and colorful celebrations through the mask dance of Lamas called ‘Cham’.
Hemis Festival 2016 Dates
Hemis festival is a two day festival which falls on the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar month. Hense, Hemis festival is also known as Hemis Tse-Chu. This year, Hemis festival will be celebrated on 14-15 July 2016.
Guru Padmasambhava – Lord Rimpoche
Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rimpoche (Rimpoche means precious) is revered as the representative reincarnation of Buddha or ‘Second Buddha’. He is believed to have born on the 10th day of the 5th month of the Monkey year as per the forecast of “Shakia Muni Buddha”. Every 12 Years when it is the Monkey year of Buddhist calendar, a huge Thangka which is a religious icon painted or embroidered on a big cloth, is exhibited during the Hemis festival.
It is said that Guru Padmasambhava fought with demons to safeguard the local people and always worked to improve the spiritual condition of all living beings. He is also believed to have introduced the practice of Tantric Buddhism. To commemorate the good deeds and the spiritual teachings of their Guru Rimpoche, the followers of Buddhism perform sacred rituals on the occasion of Hemis festival in order to ensure spiritual strength and good health.
Hemis Monastery- the Gompa
Gompa or Monastery can be called the local Buddhist temples. Hemis Monastery is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery linked with the Drukpa Lineage. It is located in Hemis -40 kms from Leh in Ladakh of Jammu and Kashmir state of India. The Hemis monastery was re-established in the year 1672 by the then Ladakhi king Senge Nampar Gyalva. The famous Hemis festival is held every year in June-July in this Buddhist Monastery.
The Hemis Monastery is also known as Chang Chub Sam Ling (lone place of the compassionate being). There is a vast courtyard in this monastery which is surrounded by a number of shrines. Many treasures of Lamas are housed in this Hemis monastery such as Buddha Shakyamuni studded with precious gems and the Thangka- the lavish cloth having Buddhist Icon painted and embroidered with semi precious stones.
Hemis Festival Celebrations
Hemis Festival can be called the most spectacular and lavishly celebrated Buddhist festival. The festival is celebrated in the vast courtyard of Hemis Monastery situated in front of the main gate of the monastery. There is a richly decorated table placed on a raised dias where there are certain ceremonial items including holy water, uncooked rice and some other edible things, incense sticks etc. The huge Thangka of Guru Padmasambhava is displayed so that people can worship their God and appreciate the art too. The ceremony begins right in the morning with the thumping sounds of traditional Ladakhi musical instruments like cymbals, large-pan drums, trumpets, large wind instruments, wind pipes etc. Lamas perform their signature mask dance – the ‘Cham’- wearing some really frightful masks, red-robes, tall tufted hats and lavish clothing made of brocade, silk and such other royal fabrics. The lama dancers divide themselves into demons and gods. The dance represents the victory of good over evil. Along with the mask dance, many sacred plays are also performed during the celebrations of Hemis festival. Many stories are also told that establish the victory of good over evil.
On the second day of Hemis festival, the celebration ends with the performance of ‘Hashang and Hatuk’ dance. Hashang is a Chinese Monk, popularly known as the ‘Laughing Buddha’ and Hatuk is his disciple. The local people of Leh Ladakh come to celebrate the Hemis festival in their best traditional attire. All the families coming to the Monastery carry with them a samovar of yak butter tea and a canister of Tsampa or the roasted barley flour which is a Tibetan staple foodstuff. People also enjoy the Ladakhi liquor known as ‘Chang’. A handicrafts fair is also held displaying the beautiful handicrafts made by the people of the Leh and Ladakh region.
In last few years, Hemis festival has become a major attraction for the tourists coming to Leh Ladakh in order to spare themselves from the scorching heat of summer months in other parts of India. In fact, nowadays, many travel companies organize special trip to Leh Ladakh coinciding with the dates of Hemis festival. This way, the tourists come to know about the rich traditions of the local people and the local residents of Leh Ladakh get a chance to interact and showcase their culture to the other people of the country.