Around 40 km from Leh, lies the wealthiest, best-known and biggest gompa of Ladakh, called Hemis Monastry. The courtyard of Hemis Gompa is the stage for the famous ‘Hemis’ festival that celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is in honour of Guru Padma Sambhav’s birth anniversary. The Hemis Monastry was built in 1630 during the reign of Sengge Namgyal, an illustrious ruler of Ladakh. It flourished under the Namgyal dynasty for the royalty favoured the Drugpa sect, which managed the monastery.
The colourful two-day Hemis Festival falls on the 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan lunar month. The local people are seen dressed up in their finest traditional garb for the occasion. Lamas called ‘chhams’ perform splendid masked dances and sacred plays to the accompaniment of cymbals, drums and long horns. The head lama presides over the function.
The festival takes an auspicious turn every 12 years in the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, when the two-storey high ‘Thanka’ (which ius also the largest Thangkha in Ladakh) depicting Padmasambhava is displayed. This famous ‘Thanka’, richly embroidered with pearls and semi-precious stones, is due to be displayed at this year’s festival i.e in 2011. A colourful fair, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, is the special highlight of the festival.
A mesmerizing environment of color and art, displaying some beautiful handicrafts, makes the Hemis festival an important destination for the Leh – Ladakh Cultural Festival tour packages. The Hemis Festival this year is scheduled to be held on 10-11 July.