LADAKH FESTIVAL DATES
One of the prime reasons of travelers coming to Ladakh from far off places is its festivals. The region festivals are celebrated as an indispensable tenet of their religion. The Galas are celebrated with vibrant zeal and zest exhibiting the great faith they have in their religion. The rich cultural heritage of the province can also be witnessed very well during these galas. Many Malas are celebrated in the region and all these fiestas are celebrated according to the Tibetan Lunar Calendar, hence the dates vary each year. Galas are celebrated throughout the year. It should be noted that the timings of the many galas, particularly in the province, have been altered in the last decade or two, with some of the more accessible monasteries in the Indus Valley rescheduling their Galas to attract income from tourism.
LADAKH NEW YEAR FESTIVAL
New Year Ladakh festival is one of the most vibrant fiestas celebrated in Region. Four weeks after the New Year Commemoration, there is a smaller Prayer Fiesta, unsurpassed in splendor. For two hours an immense Tankha hangs down from the dizzy heights above over one side of the palace. Considered to be the largest in the world, it takes 50 months to carry it to its place and unfold it. Made of fine heavy silk, it is embroidered with the figures of the gods in bright colors, and while it hangs, a gay procession moves around it, while the monks, masked and robed perform dances gyrating slowly to the roll of drums.
Losar is another important festivalof the region. Inordinately fond of music, dance and play, religious ceremonies, too, for the Ladakhis consist of music, dramas and masked dances, bringing to them a mystical experience. Besides the plays, there is folk dancing to the accompaniment of flutes, clarionets, cymbals and drums. Though performed for Buddhists, the Bedas, other Men who are hired as dancers and musicians are all Muslims or converts to Islam.
(Mid-Jun–early Jul) A famous Buddhist cham (masked dance) Galas, the Hemis festival commemorates Padmasambhava’sbirthday. It’s on the 10th day of the 6th month of the Tibetan calendar the famous fair at Hemis is replete with masked dances much eating and drinking. According to Ladakhi, mythology, a snake represents jealousy; a bird is the symbol of lust and a pig of ignorance.Hemis is one of the most important Galas celebrated in Region.
(Feb-early Mar)It is the annual prayer fiesta. This is a Buddhist New Year Festival. A huge wooden mast which is decorated with garlands and other religious symbols is placed outside Leh. Effigies representing evil spirits of the old year are burnt or cast into the desert.
MATHO NAGRANG FESTIVAL
(February/March) During the MathoNagrang festival pair of monk-oracles performs daring physical challenges while effectively blindfolded by mop wigs, ‘seeing’ only through the fearsome ‘eyes’ painted on their chests. They also engage in ritual acts of self-mutilation and make predictions for the coming year.
(May/Jun) In this Ladakhfestival Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and attainment ofNirvana (earthly release) all are celebrated. On the Hindu calendar it is referred to as Wesak, while Tibetans refer to the date as the SakaDawa. The galas are celebrated during full moon, but since the people of the region keep different calendars, the galas do not necessarily coincide with the same full moon.
are celebrated with tremendous religious fervor and most of the fiestas feature masked dances celebrating the triumph of good over evil. The galas are a treat to watch and anyone traveling to region must not miss the opportunity of witnessing the charm of a fiesta.