In Ladakh, Monastic festivals are rejoiced as the event for joyfulness. These festivals offer spectators with a variety of opportunities to interrelate with each other, to form new relations and renovate the previous ones. Most of the annual fiestas of the Monasteries in Ladakh are celebrated in winter, which is a comparatively suitable time for most of the people. This is the time when the entire Monastery and village assemble together. Stalls are set up and goods of every day need and pleasure are sold. Families and their relatives take pleasure in the meals jointly. The entire activity occurs around the Monasteries. In the complex of the Monasteries, vibrant masked dances and dramas are executed.
Lamas, dressed in strikingly colorful robes along with frightful masks, execute mimes symbolizing different aspects of the religious conviction such as progress of the person’s soul and the triumph of the good over bad. It is also an event to display the cultural tradition with the riches of that exacting monastery. Big and unusual musical instruments, archaic weapons and spiritual objects such as Thangkas are brought out in the performances.
The initial ritual of any fiesta is very exciting as the male Lama goes along with the monks. Singers, Musicians and dancers in a concord make a memorable experience for the visitors. Spituk, Stok, Thiksey, Matho and Chemrey celebrate their festivals during winter, from November to March. There are also some fiestas which are rejoiced during warmer months. Lamayuru Festival (April to May), Thiksey festival (July to August), Phyang festival are some of them.
Monastic festivals are yearly events of the main monasteries which the neighboring people keenly look ahead to attend, for attaining spiritual merit and as a way of social enjoyment. These are usually held to memorialize the founding of a specific Monastery, the birthday of its sponsor saint or some chief events in the olden times and growth of Buddhism of Tibet. People assemble in thousands to be present at these festivals in their best, making all events a celebration of colors.
The core affair of the Monastic fiesta is a greatly choreographed custom dance-drama called ‘Chhams’ and is supervised by ‘Chham-spon’, the spiritual dance teacher of the Monastery. The dances are executed not only to show the mysterious philosophy of the occasion for the profit of the lay followers, but also by the way of custom offerings to the tutelary divinities of the Monastery and the protectors of the faith. When the ‘Chhams’ move towards its end on the next and final day of the fiesta, the climax scene is executed, where the votive donation, a bizarre human figure prepared from dough, is cut into pieces and sprinkled in the four basic directions. This stature symbolizes the adversary of Buddhism and the incarnation of the three prime evils in the individual soul which are hatred, ignorance and jealousy. Therefore, its destruction symbolizes killing of the rival of Buddhism and the cleansing of the individual soul from the three bad evils. This custom is called ‘Dao Tulva’.
The ‘Rimpoche’ or chief lama, the embodied of the Monastery carries out the rites and rituals of the fiesta. He sits on an elevated throne positioned in the middle of the long courtyard that runs beside one part of the rectangular patio facing the giant, prominent gates of the Monastery’s central prayer hall or the Du-khang. This room in fact is used as the green room for the performers during the fiesta. The Rimpoche directs the lamas in the presentation of the mantras related with ‘Chhams’, hence, creating the proper ambience for dancers to act out the role of the divinities whose appearance they take on. The Monastic fiestas also give the neighboring people a chance for entertainment, socializing and trading.
The Monastic festivals are celebrated in Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir. Situated at the foothills of The Himalayan Mountains, the Ladakh is a land of elevated passes.
Time of Festival
The Monastic festival in Ladakh is in accordance with the Tibetan calendar. The dates differ every year from November to March and some falls during summer from April to August. They require astrological opinion to determine every year’s calendar. By tradition, at the ending of the year, a new calendar is prepared by the astrologers for fiestas so that it is obtainable as the New Year leads in. However in the lack of long period calendars, people face problems in scheduling trips to witness these occasions in Ladakh.
Point to Remember
Some of the Monastic festivals are celebrated during winter, from November to March. There are also some fiestas which are rejoiced during warmer months from April to August. Therefore, it is better to make preparations according to the season and dates before visiting Ladakh for the Monastic festival.
There are no entry fees for this festival. It is open for all the people from all religions and communities.
Effects on Tourism
This festival plays an important role in increasing the tourism of Ladakh, Jammu & Kashmir. People from different parts of India & world come here & get attracted by the alluring and breath taking beauty of Ladakh and the heritage and culture of its different Monasteries. They are also attracted by the richness of its vibrant festivals. So, they wish to come here again & again.
How to Reach
The city with heritage Monasteries, snow capped mountains and exquisite landscapes; Ladakh is a land of alluring beauty. Ladakh gives the opportunity to take pleasure in the scenery or engage in adventures.
The airport of Leh is perched nearly 8 km away from the city. Leh is linked to Jammu, Srinagar and Delhi by air.
By road Leh is nearly 434 km away from Srinagar and 739 km away from Jammu. A motor-able road is there from Srinagar to Leh through Kargil. This road remains open for visitors from June to November and is the key land way to Ladakh.
By RailThe closest railway station is perched at Jammu and is nearly 739 km away from Leh.
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