NEW DELHI: Ladakh’s famous two-day Hemis festival organised by the Drukpa Order of the Himalayas, concluded at the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh. The festival celebrates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the 8th century Indian saint who spread Vajrayana Buddhism throughout the Himalayas.
The festival, held annually at the legendary Hemis Monastery traditionally attracted sect followers but has grown in recent years to become one of the biggest draws in Ladakh bringing in travellers, tourists, devotees and followers in droves not only from India but from across the world.
To commemorate this event, participants dress in their traditional attire and decorate the town in symbols of Ladakhi culture and heritage. The first day of the festival featured the monks of the Drukpa Order performing ‘Chams’ – an ancient mask dance performed to the sounds of cymbals, drums and long horn as they recite stories associated with the Drukpa Buddhism. A series of ‘Chams’ performed in a sequence demonstrate the victory of good over evil, which was the central theme of the festival and highly resonant in our world today. The performers wear colourful and elaborate costumes with brightly painted masks and delivered a highly moving performance that moved slowly into a crescendo as the healing scent of herbal incense filled the atmosphere – making it a unique visual and emotional experience for the audience.
More than 20,000 people from a cross section of Ladakhi society and visitors from various countries joined the festivities. In addition to the traditional ‘Chams’, the monks also recreated a representation of the eight different forms of Guru Padmasambhava, representing good over evil. The first day of the Hemis festival was dedicated to the traditional dances and representations of the eight different forms of Padmasambhava. On the following day monks continued with their traditional performances on various instruments and exhibited the thangka-painting of silk patchwork of the great Gyelsey Rinpoche, grandson of the great Ladakhi King Senge Namgyal. The monks assembled for the worship of Maharaja Pehara, a protector of Buddhist teaching, with eleven senior monks as part of his retinue – a great honour.