Festivals of Ladakh are an important part of life there which mark several occasions such as harvesting, commemoration of the head Lamas of the founding monastery, New Y,ear etc.The festivals of Ladakh conducted by various monasteries often have religious masked dances which are an important part of Ladakh’s culture. The dances typically narrate a story between good and evil , which typically end up in victory of the former.
Hemis Festival : The most famous of all monastic festivals in June (a three day affair) to commemorate birth of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. The sacred dance drama of the life and mission is performed wearing facial masks and colorful brocades robes. The monkey year festival is a special treat which comes at a cycle of 12 yrs. The four-storey Thanka of Guru Padmasambhava is displayed during the festival.
Thiksey, Karsha and Spituk Gustor: Gustors takes place all the three monasteries at different times of the year. A two day celebration, to mark the victory of good over evil. Gustor literally means “Sacrifice of the 29th day” and it ends with burning of effigies representing evil.
Dosmochey : Celebrated with much fervor and delight in the month of February at the courtyards of majestic Leh Palace. Masked Lamas from different monasteries perform the Chams every year turn by turn. This festival is also celebrated at the Diskit monastery and the Likir with great enthusiasm. The start and end of the Tibetian calendar marks the occasion.
Matho Nagrang: Matho Monastery of Leh Ladakh hosts the Matho Nagrang Festival, on an annual basis. The festival takes place on the 14th and 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. All the monks participate in the sacred dances, performed at this annual event. The festival is famous because of appearance of the two oracles during the festival after a full month of meditation in complete isolation. Matho Monastery also boasts of housing an amazingly rich collection of four hundred years old Thankas.
Stok Guru Tsechu : Also held in February, a week before the Matho Nagrang. Monks from Stok monastery perform masked dances, but the highlight being appearance of two oracles who are laymen prepared and cleansed by the lamas to receive the spirit of the deities.
Phyang Tsedup : This festival is held in the Phyang monastery in July/August. The monks as usual perform the Chams but the festival gets its popularity from the huge Thanka of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo hung during the celebrations.
Yuru Kabgyat: The two day festival is celebrated at the Lamaruyu monastery in the month of July. The lamas perform the masked dance or the Chams with great zeal .
Losar celebration : Losar stands for the Tibetian new year. The Losar festival is celebrated in the eleventh month of Tibetan calendar, two months ahead of Tibetan New Year. In early 17th century, King Jamyang Namgyal decided to lead an expedition against the Baltistan forces in winter; therefore he decided to celebrate the festival two months before. Later it became a tradition and being celebrated in the eleventh month. It lasts for over a month when Gods, deities, ancestors and even animals are fed without fail. Everyone in the family joins in for the celebration and if anyone is missing, they will have a cup of tea filled in their name.
Ladakh Festival: From September 1st to 15th every year in Leh and in the villages around, the Ladakh festival is celebrated in the grandest style. With cultural troupes performing from different parts of Leh, forming the part of the procession which leads to the Polo ground, for the big inauguration. Regular programs are held at the nearby villages during the 15 day period.
Sindhu Darshan: Sindhu Darshan is a three-day festival held from 1st to 3rd June, in Shey Manla around 8 kms. from Leh on the bank of Indus river (Sindhu Ghat). For the first time it was organized in October 1997, as a symbol of unity and communal harmony and national integration.