HEMIS FESTIVAL OF LADAKH: A Time To Come Together and Celebrate Culture


The Hemis Festival, which commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, is not only among the most significant Buddhist celebrations in Ladakh but also one of the most loved festivals by visitors. The celebration, which lasts for two days, is held at Hemis Gompa, one of the most popular monasteries in Ladakh, on the tenth day of the fifth Tibetan month, which corresponds to the month of June or July in the Gregorian calendar. The Hemis Festival commemorates both the triumph of good over evil and the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava.


The occasion is also  known as Tse-Chu. On this well-known event in Ladakh, the Hemis Monastery hosts performances of the Cham Dance and other traditional dances to the sounds of drums, cymbals, and Tibetan musical instruments that resemble long pipes. The Hemis Monastery hosts the Hemis Festival. The monastery has been under Namgyal's control for 300 years. It is one of the most significant gompas in Ladakh and is 45 kilometres from Leh. The monastery was reestablished  in 1672 by Sengge Namgyal.


As per Buddha Shakyamuni, Guru Rinpoche or Guru Padmasambhava  is thought to be born on the tenth day of the fifth month of the monkey year. It is also thought that he still has a life mission to help all living things reach their full spiritual potential. Every 12 years, the largest thangka (Buddhist painting) is unfurled. It is thought that following these holy ceremonies will provide one spiritual power and good health. In the rectangular courtyard in front of the monastery's main entrance, the Hemis festival is held.


The area is large and open with two raised, three-foot-high square platforms with a sacred pole in the middle. The ritual supplies, including cups filled with holy water, uncooked rice, tormas made of dough and butter, and incense sticks, are set up on a small Tibetan table that has been beautifully decorated. With four pairs of cymbals, large-pan drums, small trumpets, and large-size wind instruments, a lot of players perform the traditional melody. The lamas are given a separate area to sit in close proximity to them.


The festivities start with an early morning rite atop the Gompa, when the portrait of "Dadmokarpo" or "Rygyalsras Rinpoche" is then ceremoniously displayed for everyone to admire and worship to the rhythm of drums, the  clash of cymbals, and the spiritual scream of pipes. Huge thangkas (Buddhist paintings) are unfurled for the public on both days of the festival. The Cham, a masked dance performance, is what draws the most people to the festival. It is a dance that shows the battle between good and evil, in which the former prevails. The spectacle is breathtaking, and the Lamas' vibrant attire energises the entire gathering. The festival is the greatest opportunity to observe individuals dressed up in their best traditional garb, and there is a fair where you can buy Tibetan goods.


 Tourists from around the world are welcomed to this cultural extravagance. The vibrant event displays the region's exquisite handicrafts. Lamas, who dance around the festival's focal flagpole to the accompaniment of drums, cymbals, and longhorns, are its main draw. Sacred plays are also performed, which keeps the audience entertained throughout the occasion. Every mask has a special meaning attached to it. Finally, a dough sculpture representing the evil forces is smashed by the Black Hat dancers' heads. This suggests driving away malevolent spirits. Then, four distinct directions are chosen for the fractured parts to be tossed. The ritual denotes the cleansing of things. The event's main selling point is its souvenirs, which include spectacular works of indigenous art as well as little idols, trinkets, and Ladakh handicrafts that can be purchased and brought home. Additionally, you may get some amazing wall hangings for the home as well as hand-woven carpets and shawls in conventionally vibrant colours. Pottery, bags, wicker baskets, postcards, novels, are also sold.


Everyone should visit Leh-Ladakh at least once in their lifetime since it is an experience unlike any other. When making travel plans, it is worthwhile to visit the Hemis Monastery Ladakh during the festival to take in the spiritual side of the location. You can take a bus to Leh to make your trip even more memorable while taking in the breathtaking scenery along the way. The two-day event is celebrated at the Hemis monastery by both locals and visitors.



The festival's history begins in the eighth century CE. Also known as Guru Rinpoche, Lord Padmasambhava defended the populace by battling evil spirits and demons. Tantric Buddhism was something he introduced to this Himalayan nation. An alternative way of looking at life was introduced through the blending of Tibetan and Buddhist cultures. Since then, in order to combat the negatives, people have begun to glorify his legacy. Legends state that then the eighth century, demonic spirits afflicted the residents of Hemis Village. Guru Padmasambhava travelled to Hemis and used "Vajrayana Buddhism" to defeat evil.

 At the Hemis monastery in Ladakh, the celebration is lavishly observed. The Hemis monastery dates back approximately three centuries . Hemis Monastery is exquisitely decorated for the ritual on this particular day. It is a monastery (gompa) of the Drukpa Lineage. It was restored in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal and is located 45 kilometres from Leh.


The Hemis Festival duration:

This festival, which lasts for two days, is held in June or July.



Dance Chham:

The centrepieces of the Ladakhi Hemis Festival are the masked dances, or "Chham Dance," which show the triumph of good over evil. Monks are expected to dress in long robes, ornate masks, and headgear in accordance with tradition. Every mask has a special meaning attached to it. Even a dance of Padmasambhava shows the master slaying the Ruta demons. The dance begins with slow music that gradually picks up tempo and intensity until the leader destroys the devil's clay idol to signal the end of the dance.Yama, the God of Death, and Guru Trakpo, the Defender of All Demons, appear in the Padmasambhava dance.


Handicrafts :

One of the festival's most well-liked attractions is an amazing display of handicrafts. The display of eye-catching handmade goods enhances the gala's attractiveness. The captivating gemstones, exquisite jewellery, wicker baskets, carpets, and other Ladakhi handicrafts lend beauty to this wonderful event. Even the indigenous handicrafts from Ladakh and the incredibly detailed and breathtaking artwork are sold at the kiosks.


The local libation 'CHHANG':

The indigenous alcoholic beverage 'chhang' is served to the public during the celebration. This traditional Tibetan beverage is produced from rice water that has been flavour-infused with various other ingredients.An entertaining drinking custom is to take three quick sips from the cup before gulping the entire thing in one go.



The jubilation is increased by the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, or every 12th year. As the largest thangka of Guru Padmasambhava, which is displayed with great passion, which is as high as two storeys of a building, is displayed, Ladakh is engulfed in a powerful surge of spiritualism and faith. Many people assemble to see the thangka that has been embellished with semi-precious gems, stones, and pearls.


THE NEARBY STORES: The event features a number of colourful and unusual exhibitions. Visitors to Ladakh at this time can shop for unique products that are only found here.


Devil Dances: These dances are also performed and play a significant role in the celebration.




● Every year, a sizable crowd attends the Hemis Festival. To make the most of the festival, we advise that you attend on time. The festival has a "first come, first served" policy and starts early in the morning. Therefore, if you arrive late, your chances of securing good seats or even just standard seats are reduced. Arrive at the monastery as soon as possible.


● Additionally, a few of the chairs are set aside for monks. Before you sit, be aware of that.


● Since the two-day festival begins in the morning and concludes in the evening, keep water and dry food along with you. There are food stands here, but it can cost you your seat.


 ● As you explore the monastery, be sure to observe its customs and ceremonies. Also, refrain from mocking anything. The Lama and the monks might feel offended.



Hemis Monastery is located 45 kilometres southeast of the town of Leh and is reachable by car.


By Air: Leh airport is at a distance of approximately 30 km from Hemis monastery. So you may simply get to the monastery by taking a taxi from Leh to Hemis. The closest airport to the monastery is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh.  Direct and indirect flights connect Leh to the nation's major cities. There are direct flights to Leh from the airports in Delhi, Jammu, Srinagar, and Chandigarh.


By Train:

Jammu Tawi Railway Station is the station that is closest to Hemis. Dropping off at Jammu Tawi station will allow you to take a taxi to Hemis.Chandigarh Railway Station, located 705 miles from Hemis Monastery, is also  a closest option.


By Bus:

From Srinagar to Leh, buses are available. You can take a taxi from Leh to Hemis. The easiest method to get to Hemis Monastery is by road. Hemis Monastery is conveniently located 7 kilometres from Karu on the Leh via Manali road and is reachable by bus, private vehicle, and taxi.



1. How is the Hemis festival observed in Ladakh?

Ladakh residents participate in Chham dance and devil dance performances, have handicraft exhibitions, and consume a special beverage called Chang and the entire town transforms  into a lively land. Huge thangkas (Buddhist paintings) are unfurled for the public on both days of the festival.


2.What does the word "Hemis" mean?

The name of a tiny settlement in Ladakh's Leh district is Hemis. It is renowned for having a monastery in the Himalayas.


3. Where is the Hemis Festival  held?

An annual festival called the Hemis Festival is held at the Ladakhi Hemis Monastery.  It is situated 45 km from Leh.


4.Which type of dance is practised by participants in the Hemis Festival?

The "Cham dance," which is performed by some members of the Tibetan Buddhist minority, is one of the festival's main attractions. It honours the triumph of good over evil.


5.Why is the Hemis Festival held?

In honour of the wise man Padmasambhava, also known as Guru Rimpoche, the Hemis Festival is held. It is thought that ripoches are reincarnations of Buddha the Great. His birthday is commemorated by this celebration.


6. Who constructed Hemis Monastery?

The Drukpa Kagyu sect's headquarters, Hemis Monastery (Gompa), was founded by Stagsan Raspa (sTag-ts'an-ras-pa) in the 17th century and had a close relationship with the Ladakhi royal line.Later it was reestablished in 1672 by the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal.


7.What do monks wear during the Hemis Festival?

Monks clad in loose silk garments and vibrant masks and dramatise battles with opponents of the Buddha's teachings.


8.Is Hemis worth a trip?

Hemis is a beautiful place which hosts Hemis Festival annually. The most popular Hemis  monastery is located here. The place is definitely worth a visit. The Hemis Monastery Festival starts early in the morning with devotees praying before a painting of the Guru and music being played throughout the ritual.  


The Cham, a masked dance performance, is what draws the most people to the festival. It is a slow dance that shows the battle between good and evil, in which the former prevails.  The spectacle is breath-taking, and the Lamas' vibrant attire energises the entire gathering.

In addition, a fair featuring Tibetan trinkets is held, and the festival is the greatest opportunity to observe individuals dressed in their finest traditional garb. A local beverage called Chang is also  consumed. Apart from the monastery, Stakna Monastery,Gotsang Gompa and Hemis National Park is also situated here.


9.What is Channg?

Chang is a local beverage that is specially consumed on the Hemis festival.


10.What does Cham mean?

A vibrant dance performed in masks and costumes, the cham dance is connected to Buddhist festivals and some sects of Tibetan Buddhism.