Many travel great distances to Jammu & Kashmir to see the dramatic landscape, but only a few travel with a spiritual purpose in mind. Based on when these festivals are scheduled for this year, don’t forget to time your travel! These festivals usually take the form of 1,300 year old dance-drama known as Cham in the Gonpa courtyards and are quite a spectacle! Cham dance form is integral part of tantric tradition and accompanied by powerful music courtesy trumpets, drums and cymbals.
Lamas wear colorful garments, startling masks and perform mimes that depict various aspects of an individual’s triumph over evil. The spectators or locals wear traditional clothes and the women especially wear jewelry and vibrant headgears.
Hemis festival is one of the most popular festivals that falls on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month. It is a celebration of the birth anniversary of Padmasambhava, the spiritual leader and founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. Festivities take place in the Hemis Gompa, 45 kms from Leh.
When is it this year: 26 and 27 June
Stongday Gustor Festival
Zanskar in Ladakh gets in festive mood with Stongday Gustor Festival in the Stongday monastery, which is the second largest Monastic institution in Zanskar. Every year the date of the festival varies. It usually takes place on the 28th and 29th of the 11th month according to the Tibetan calendar. Like Hemis festival, the highlight is the sacred dance.
When is it this year: 4– 5 July
Image Credit: Thomas Wilden
Karsha Gustor Festival
This festival is celebrated in the largest monastery Karsha Gompa in the Padum Valley of the Zanskar region. The Doda River flows past the monastery.
When is it this year: 14-15 July
Thikse Gustor Festival
Thiksay Monastery where this festival takes place in approximately 18 km from the town of Leh. The monastery belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism. The celebration ends with a ceremony called Argham or killing. Torma or the sacrificial cake is destroyed/dismembered by the leader of the black hat dancers.
When is it this year: October 30-31
Cover Image Credit: Kalpana Chatterjee