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Ladakh Festival Itenaries

Festivals Of Ladakh

Hemis Festival
05 Nights / 06 Days


Among the many social and cultural events of Ladakh, the annual festivals held in the Buddhist monasteries constitute the most important part of the region’s living heritage. Thousands of people turn out to attend these festivals in their traditional best, making every event a carnival of colours. It provides them a time to attain religious merit and social entertainment.

The core event of the monastic festival is Chhams, a highly choreographed sacred dance-drama performed by Lamas to the accompaniment of mystic played on the monastic orchestra. The ritual known as Dao Tulva (killing of enemy), is traditionally executed by Jha Nak, leader of the Black Hat dancers who perform one of the cultic dance sequences. The rites and ceremonies of the festival are conducted by the Head Lama incarnate(Rimpoche) of the monastery. Every major monastery has a dancing courtyard(Chhamra) with in its premises.

Mascot Travels plans your visit to explore and experience the richness of the religious and cultural heritage of Ladakh.

DOMOCHE (The great winter festival)

Domoche is the annual prayer festival, which was instituted by the kings of Ladakh on the pattern of the famous Mon-lam(or the Great Prayer) ceremony of Lhasa. The core event comprises sacred dances in the courtyard of the old chapel called the “ New Monastery” situated below the gates of Leh Palace. Lamas for this festival are drawn from different monasteries of Leh on rotation basis. However, only the Lamas of Tak-Thok monastery , being experts in tantric practices and astrology, can prepare the elaborate thread-cross model or “Do” which serves as the main votive of the festival. All the participants join in chanting prayers to wish away the evil spirits and seek protection against natural calamities in the coming year.


Concurrent with the Leh ‘Domoche’, the tradition of offering Gu-stor votive and the performance of sacred dances in also observed in the monastery of Likir. Likir monastery, with about 100 Lamas on its rolls, is a major Geluks-pa foundation and one of the several monasteries of Ladakh with are under the direct charge of Nari Rimpoche, whose present incarnation is the ‘Dalai Lama’s younger brother. Initial foundation of monastery as a ‘Kadam-pa’ establishment is attributed to the year 1065 AD.


Deskit monastery also hold the same tradition concurrently with Leh Domoshe. Deskit is headquarter of Nubra Valley. Established during early 15th century, ‘Deskit monastery’ is now a major branch of ‘Thiksey monastery’. During the festival, Lamas perform sacred dances while the devotee’s present folk dances of the area as interludes to the somber and serious numbers.

TSE-CHE FESTIVAL (Padmasambhava Anniversary)

‘Tses Chu’ meaning the 10thDay of every Tibetan month is considered very auspicious . In particular , the 10th day of the 5th and the 10th month are celebrated as the birth anniversary of ‘Padmasambhava, founder of Tibetan Buddhism and the patron saint of Tibet. On this occasion, the festival of ‘Tse-chu’ is held in the major monasteries that follow the Kargyud-pa (old-school) traditions.


One of the famous and interesting festivals, this event is celebrated as a 2- day festival popularly known as Hemis Festival. The festival of ‘ Hemis Tse-chu’ is a 200- year old tradition, initiated by a member of Ladakh’s ruling family who was reincarnated during the 18th century as the monastery’s Head Lama under the title of “Sras Rimpoche’.

This event features as series of mask dances, performed by the Lamas, which culminate in the destruction of the sacrificial offerings(Stor-ma) on the last day. The masks and costumes worn by the dancers primarily represent various guardian divinities of the ‘Drug-Pa’ order, of which ‘Hemis’ is the leading establishment of in Ladakh. The ‘Hemis dance depicts the magical feats of ‘Padmasambhava’ in his different manifestations to vanquish the enemies of Buddhism and for its propagation.

The ‘Hemis Festival’ takes an auspicious turn every 12 years when, in the Tibetan year of the Monkey( the year of birth of Padmasambhava), the two-story high ‘Thangka’ of Padmasambhava is displayed. This famous ‘Thangka’ is richly embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones. It is due to be exhibited this year (2004).


Tak-Thok means ‘the rock-roof’. Tak-Thok is also held in the only ‘Nyingma-pa’ monastery of ‘Tak-Thok’. Tak-Thok is built around a cave like many other cave foundation in Ladakh and is associated with Padmasambhava.

The Tradition of ‘Tak-Thok Tse-chu’ is held on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th Tibetan month, which falls in July-August. The Lamas in the guise of various divinities and legendary characters perform mystic dances. During these days, the votive offerings ‘Stor-ma’ are consecrated and destroyed on the last day.


This festival is held in the village of ‘Stok’ and is an essential festival for the oracles. This festival is held in small monastery of ‘Gurphug’. It is held on the 9th and 10th day of first Tibetan month (Feb-March) during which monks of ‘Spituk’ monastery perform sacred dances. Two local oracles make public appearance during these days. These oracles are initiated and trained by the lamas of ‘Spituk’ monastery to receive the spirits. People of the region receive repose great faith in the predictions made by these oracles.

MATHO NAGRANG (The festival of the Oracles)

Matho monastery is the only establishment in Ladakh , which follows the ‘Saskya-pa’ order, one of the last ‘Red Hat’ sects to be founded in Tibet. It is believed to be nearly 500 years old and now has a resident community of about 60 monks. Its annual festival called “Matho Nagrang” is held on the 14th and 15th of the 1st Tibetan month, which generally falls during the months of February-March.

The most interesting feature of this festival is that two oracles of the monastery, know as “Rongtsan”, make a public appearance during these two days. On the first day of the festival, the oracles enter in a state of trance and receive the deities. In this state they perform all sorts of impossible and miraculous feats such as cutting themselves with swords, running over the high ramparts of the monastery and jumping from one balcony to another, all blindfolded. Amidst all these live-wire feats they answer the queries made by the people about their problems, or reply to those seeking predictions. The ‘Matho’ oracles are famous all over Ladakh and people from various walks of life repose abiding faith in their predictions.


The annual festival called “Phyang Tse-dup” is held on the 2nd and 3rd day of the 6th Tibetan month, which falls in July-August. Presentation of the sacred dance-drama and burning of votive offerings on the last day are some of the major features of this festival. A huge antique Thangka of ‘Skyabje Jigten Gombo’, founder of the “Dri-gung-pa” monastic order, is exhibited for the public every 3rd year.


Yuru Kab-gyat is a 2-day festival of sacred dances and rituals celebrated on 17th and 18th day of the 5th month of Tibetan month, which generally falls in July. The masks worn by the lamas during the dances represent the guardian divinities from the ‘Dri-gung-pa pantheon’.

LOSAR (The Ladakhi New Year)

The Ladakhi New Year celebrated two months in advance, on the first day of the 11th month of Tibetan calendar. Losar is the most important of all the socio-religious events of Ladakh. The “Losar” celebrations include the several rites and customs accompanied by singing of appropriate songs. One popular custom is that images of Ibex and other auspicious symbols are made on the door, walls of the kitchen and on the capitols of its wooden columns. The “Metho” ceremony is performed by processions of people carrying flaming torches passing through the bazaars and lanes, chanting prayers to chase away evil spirits and hungry ghosts. The whirling of the flaming torches, which are eventually thrown away, to bid farewell to the old year and welcome the new creates an interesting display of fire and light.


The Socio-religious event is celebrated to observe the birthday and the Budhahood of “Tsongkha-pa”, the Tibetan saint-scholar who founded the ‘Gelucks-pa’ school of Tibetan Buddhism during the 14th century. Namchot heralds the beginning of the New Year Celebration, which continues through the festival of “Losar” and conclude with that of Leh ‘Domoche’. During this festival, it is customary to prepare various varieties of the traditional Ladakhi fare called “Thukpa” in every home, to be served to visiting friends and relatives.

Sindu Darshan

The mighty Sindhu (Indus) River symbolizes the power and permanence of the ancient Indian civilization, which evolved over a period of thousands of years. The archaeological discovery of the Indus Valley civilization, which flourished along its banks, has reinforced the antiquity of the Indian civilization. The journey of Sindhu (also spelt as Sindu) through India transports one to a civilization going back 5,000 years. The Indus Valley civilization is synonymous from Harappa and Mohenjodaro.

Sindhu is divine. In the beginning was the word. The first recorded word was the Veda. The earliest mention of this great river is in the Vedas. The Sindhu - the cradle of Indian civilisation - finds its most dramatic description in the Rig Veda (circa.1500 BC).

The Sindhu Darshan or Sindhu Festival aims at projecting the Indus as a symbol of India's unity and communal harmony. Sindhu stands for peaceful coexistence and communal harmony. The Sindhu Darshan Pilgrimage is done on June.

Calendar: Festivals of Ladakh (2004,2005)