The courtyard of Hemis Monastery- the biggest and richest Buddhist Monastery in the Ladakh regions stages the Hemis festival every year. Situated 40 kms from Leh, the festival is going to be held on the 26th and 27th of June in 2015.
This two-day celebration is one of the most popular festivals in Ladakh, offering an insight into the cultural panorama of the region. The peagent is marked with the victory of good over evil where local people are seen with their colorful attire.
The beats of drums and trumpets and the sounds of cymbals and wind instruments commence the celebration of the festival. An early morning ceremony is held in which thousands of Buddhist followers take blessings from a picture of Lord Padmasambhava. Uncooked rice, incense sticks, Tomas (made of butter and dough) and cups full of holy water are the main ceremonial items placed on a small yet finely painted table while the musicians play some traditional music.
The highlight of the Hemis Festival is the Masked Dance, performed by the lamas around the flag pole in the courtyard to the beats of drums, trumpets and cymbals. Adorned in brightly coloured brocades and paper-mache masks, the Lamas bring the world to a halt with their uproarious and dramatic dance moves depicting war between good and evil. The warends with the destruction of a dough effigy by the leading dancer of the Black Hat group. The synchronization of musical instruments makes the event more lively and enchanting.
The colourful fair displaying handicrafts of the region is something one should not miss.
Other places to Visit around the Hemis Monastery:
A former Royal Palace, it was desolated when the Royal family moved to the Stok Palace. The palace is now a museum that exhibits an assortment of ornaments, ceremonial royal dresses, crowns and historical Chinese Thangka (a type of painting), painted or embroidered thangkas (scrolls), and a lot more. You will also find some ceremonial dresses, crowns, and centuries-old pieces of jewellery. Some of the paintings here are almost 450 years old. The colours are said to have been acquired from crushing and powdering gemstones.
Shey Palace was built in 1665 by the King of Ladakh as his summer retreat house. Shey Monastery, along with the Palace (much in ruined condition now) is situated atop a hillock. The monastery is mainly noted for having a giant metal statue wrought with copper and gold, second largest of its kind in the region, of Buddha in Shakyamuni form.
Situated on top of the hill, the monastery is 3600 m above sea level. Famous for its architechture, the 12 storey monastery is home to 10 temples, assembly hall, and residence for 120 monks and nunnery. This beautiful monastery houses a two storey statue of the Maitreya Buddha seated on a lotus and boasts of a spectacular view of the valley. This statue is 40 feet in height.
Spituk Monastery is home to 100 monks and a giant statue of Kali which is shown to the public during the yearly Spituk festival. The monastery is as fascinating as its rick natural beauty.
This is the official residence of the Royal Family of Ladakh after Leh Palace and was built in 1814 by the last ruler. The Palace has over 80 rooms, but only 5 are accessible to the public. The Palace now houses a small museum with coins, seals, weaponary, Buddhist art, thangka paintings and a lot more. The most impressive of the exhibits are the Queens ceremonial jewellery and the ceremonial head gears of the rulers.