Festivals of Ladakh

Festivals in Ladakh are celebrated as the occasions for merry-making. These festivals provide people with various opportunities to interact with each other, form new ties and renew the old ones. Many of the annual festivals of the Gompas in Ladakh takes place in winter, which is a relatively idle time for majority of the people. It is time when the whole village gather together. Stalls are erected and goods of daily need and enjoyment are sold. Eatables are brought along and families and relatives would enjoy the meals together. The whole activity takes place around the gompas. In the courtyards of the Gompas, colourful masked dances and dance-dramas are performed. Lamas, dressed in colourful robes and wearing startlingly frightful masks, perform mimes symbolizing various aspects of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyment of the party atmosphere. This is also an occasion to demonstrate the cultural heritage as well as the wealth of that particular monastery. Big and rare musical instruments, old weapons and religious objects including Thangkas are brought out during the performances. The first ceremony of any festival is very interesting as the male Lama is accompanied by the monks. Musicians, dancers and singers in an harmony create for visitors an unforgettable experience. Some of the popular themes includes the victory of good over evil or some special stories related to great Lamas where their supernatural power is demonstrated or the stories related to Guru Padmasambhava. Their dances are also very colourful. A clown plays an important role so that the villagers do not get disinterested by an overdose of religion or history so that atmosphere is joyful. Spituk, Stok, Thikse, Chemrey and Matho have their festivals in winter, between November and March. There are some festivals which are celebrated in warmer months. These are Lamayuru Festival (April or May), Phyang Festival, Thikse Festival (July or August). Some other festivals celebrated in Ladakh are as follows:

Hemis Festival in Ladakh
Hemis is the biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals, frequented by tourists and local alike. Hemis Festival is celebrated in the end of June or in early July and is dedicated to Guru Padmasambhava. After very 12 years, the Gompa's greatest treasure, a huge thangka or a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth is ritually exhibited. The next unveiling is due to take place in 2004 AD.

Dosmoche Festival in Ladakh
Dosmoche Festival, the festival of the scapegoat, is celebrated with great enthusiasm at Leh. Dosmoche Festival falls in the second half of February. Dosmoche is one of two New Year festivals, the other being Losar. At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is held up outside Leh. At the appointed time, offerings of storma, ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleansed and made ready to welcome the new year. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) also time their festivals to coincide with Dosmoche festival. 

Losar Festival in Ladakh
Losar, the spectacular festival celebrates the Ladakhi or Tibetan new year. The festivities last for 2 weeks during December or January, depending on the Lunar Calendar. All Ladakhi Buddhists celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in Gompas and in their domestic shrines. The festival is marked with ancient rituals, the stage fights between good and evil, chanting and passing through the crowds with fire torches, the dance of the Ibex deer and the dramatic battles between the King and his ministers. This festival is full of music, dances and merry-making. This important festival changes its location and dates every year.

Phyang Festival in Ladakh
Phyang Festival is celebrated in the month of July (late July or early August) in Ladakh. Like Hemis, the Phyang festival also involves the exhibition of gigantic Thangka, though here it is done every year.

Ladakh Harvest Festival in Ladakh
The festival usually starts from 1st September and lasts till September 15th. It is a colourful celebration of the rich, cultural diversity of Ladakh's people. The weeks long festivities are held all over the region. Music, theatre, polo, archery and wedding ceremonies are performed daily along with mask and folk dances, with the final carnival parade passing through the streets of Leh.

Ladakh Festival in Ladakh
The Ladakh festival is conducted for 15 days i.e. from the 1st to the 15th of September in Ladakh. Various sports such as polo and archery, folk dances and songs, age-old social and cultural ceremonies, art and handicrafts, all come alive in a colorful kaleidoscope.

Tak-Tok Festival in Ladakh
Tak-Tok festival is celebrated at cave Gompa of Tak-Tok in Ladakh. It is one of the major festivals of Ladakh. Tak-Tok festival is celebrated for about ten days after Phyang festival. This festival is celebrated in summer, and yet another tourist attraction. The festival is celebrated with fanfare and locals from far areas storm the place on the occasion.

Sindhu Darshan Festival in Ladakh
Sindhu Darshan Festival, as the name suggests, is a celebration of the Sindhu river. The people travel here for the Darshan and Puja of the River Sindhu (Indus) which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet. The festival aims at projecting the Sindhu river as a symbol of multi-dimensional cultural identity, communal harmony and peaceful co-existence in India. This festival is also a symbolic salute to the brave soldiers of India who have valiantly fought the odds at Siachen, Kargil and other places. It is also an opportunity for people from around the country and overseas to visit the beautiful regions of Leh and Ladakh. This festival was first celebrated in the year 1997 and later this festival is organized annually at Leh in the month of May-June by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir with the support of the Ministry of tourism and culture, Government of India. The festival is kaleidoscope of Indian culture and showcases an exciting array of performing arts being brought together at an exciting place. As part of the celebrations, various groups from different states in India bring water from the other mighty rivers in the country in earthen pots and immerse these pots in the Sindhu river, thereby mingling the river water with other waters of the land.

See the Festival Calendar of Ladakh