Often called the ‘Land of High Passes’, Ladakh is truly a heaven on Earth with its dramatic landscapes, crystal clear lakes, age-old monasteries, barren valleys, amazing people, and rich culture. It is one of the famous places to visit in India and among the must-include places in Jammu & Kashmir Tour Packages. Also known as ‘Mini Tibet’, Ladakh is an abode for the Buddhist culture which has been witnessed during the festivals that are marked by beautifully synchronized masked dances, Buddhist rituals, ceremonies of various types & vigorous celebrations. These festivals offer an extremely useful insight into the rich cultural heritage of the people of Ladakh. We have listed below some of the prominent festivals in Ladakh that will give you a better insight into this awe-inspiring Buddhist culture of the Ladakh people.
One of the most popular cultural festivals of Ladakh, Losar Festival marks the beginning of the Buddhist New Year which usually falls in February r March. Also known as Tibetan New Year, Losar has its origin in the 7th century and is celebrated by Tantric Buddhists all over India for 15 days. The festival features an amalgamation of ancient rituals, staged dance dramas, the dance of the Ibex deer, and lots of music. The main highlight of the festival is the masked dance that looks awe-inspiring and splendid at the same time. A procession of fire or Metho is organized with people chanting slogans to chase away evil spirits. The sound of drum beats and rhythmic chanting brings the whole valley to life.
Hemis Festival is one of the most colorful festivals celebrated in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir. Observed every year at Hemis Gompa in Ladakh, it is a 2-day event celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month by the people of Ladakh to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. During the festival, the locals get dressed up in traditional clothes, where men wear cummerbunds and women wear vibrant headgear and loads of jewelry. This joyous event is further lit up with the splendid Mask Dance or Cham Dance by Lamas which mark the victory of good over evil. The festival takes an auspicious turn every 12 years in the Tibetan Year of the Monkey when the two-story high ‘Thanka’ depicting Padmasambhava is displayed. To witness these celebrations, one should visit Ladakh which draws over 80,000 people from all across the globe as part of India tour packages.
Started by Ladakh royals, the Dosmoche is a prominent festival of Ladakh that is celebrated to ensure the safety and well-being of people living there. It is celebrated on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month i.e., mid of February in Likir, Leh Palace, and Nubra Valley’s Diskit monastery, but the Leh Palace celebration is the grandest and best of all. The main highlights are the decorations of the Leh Palace, the alluring music of the drums, a masked dance that shows drama, and the unique rituals performed by the lamas. The monks of the Takthok monastery prepare offerings of thread crosses that are believed to ward off all evil and guard the place against any natural disaster.
Matho Nagrang Festival
Observed at Matho Monastery, the Matho Nagrang Festival is one of the famous cultural events of Ladakh celebrated on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan Calendar. It is the only gompa that belongs to the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. Held for 2 days, the event features masked dance performed by monks wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and masks in the form of different Gods and Goddesses. This 2-day event is a huge attraction among locals as it sees the return of two oracles who spend a month meditating in isolation. They appear in the courtyard accompanying the masked dancers to give future predictions about the events that would befall. People even from faraway places come here so that they can get advice regarding rituals that need to be performed to ward off disasters.
Ladakh Harvest Festival
Organized in Leh by the Jammu & Kashmir Tourism Department, the Ladakh Harvest Festival is an important event celebrated every year in Leh from 1st September and lasts until September 15th. It marks the harvest season and celebrates promoting and maintaining the rich cultural diversity of the Ladakh people. The festival is marked by vigorous celebrations that include folk performances, mask dances, wedding ceremonies, archery competitions, theatre, music, and polo. A major religious procession is also held during the festival.
Thiksey Gustor Festival
Observed every year in November, the Thiksey Gustor Festival is a 2-day monastic festival celebrated at Thiksey Monastery, among the best places to visit in Ladakh. The monastery belongs to the Gelugpa sect of Tibetan Buddhism. The word ‘Gustor’ means sacrificing the 29th date. Observed with great zeal among the locals, the event signifies the victory of good over evil. It is also celebrated in Spituk Monastery and Karsha Nanzkar of Ladakh. The event starts with morning prayers offered to God by monks, followed by cultural performances, including masked dance, and concludes with the distribution of conciliatory cake known as Torma. Attracts a large number of tourists as well as locals, don’t miss being a part of this event if you are in Ladakh during November.
Saka Dawa Festival
One of the most revered Buddhist festivals in Ladakh, Saka Dawa is celebrated every year during the fourth month of the Tibetan calendar which comes in June, it is said to be the month. Also known as Buddha Purnima or Vesak Day, the festival commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and death of the Buddha. The word ska means month and dawa means star which is strongly associated with the full moon of the fourth lunar month. On this very day, the lamas of nearby monasteries change the Tarboche flagpole, which is located in the South of the mountain, Kailash Kora. During this event, people are seen reciting mantras, doing sadhanas, and protecting animals for the prestigious enlightenment of Sakyamuni. No animals are killed or consumed on this day.
Sindhu Darshan Festival
Sindhu Darshan Festival is one of the main events celebrated in Jammu & Kashmir since 1997. Observed on the banks of River Sindhu in Leh, the festival was celebrated every year in June on the full moon day of Guru Purnima. Organized by Sindhu Darshan Yatra Samiti and Ladakh Pandey Tsogspathe, this event is celebrated with the motive of endorsing the river as an icon of communal harmony in India. People from different parts of the country bring water from the rivers of their states to further immerse in Indus. Held for 3-days, the first day’s reception ceremony is managed by a committee that is made up of various religious communities. The cultural exchange program on the second day involves artists from across the country showcasing their art and their wares while the third day involves grand celebrations that include dance and music performances along with a symbolic salutation to the brave soldiers of our country who lost their lives while saving ours. This festival draws a large number of people both domestic as well as foreign tourists as part of Ladakh Tour Packages.
Tak Tok Festival
Tak Tok is another important festival of Ladakh held at a cave in Tak Thok Gompa in Leh. Observed on the 10th day of the 5th month according to Lunar Tibetan Calendar, it is celebrated with great pomp and fanfare, and locals, as well as tourists from far-flung areas, storm the place on this occasion. During this event, one can witness several cultural programs throughout the day which kick off with a well-organized feast. It is commemorated by the dances of lamas, the mask dance, and the religious offerings that are made to the Lord.