Fairs & Festivals in Ladakh

The religious philosophy of Buddhism, however, profound and subtle doesn’t preclude an immense joie-de-vivre among its Ladakh adherents, and even solemn religious enactment’s are made the occasion for joyous celebration. Many of the festivals of the gonpas take place in winter, a relatively idle time for the majority of the people.

They take the form of dance-dramas in the Gonpa courtyards. Lamas, robed in colourful garments and wearing often startlingly frightful mask, perform mimes representing various aspect of the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events, and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by their enjoyment of the party atmosphere, with crowds of women and men, the opportunity to make new friendships and renew old ones, the general bustle and sense of occasion.

The biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals, frequented by tourists and locals a like, is that of Hemis, which falls in late June or the first half of July, and is dedicated to Padmasambhava.

Every 12 years, the gonpa’s greatest treasure, a huge thangka - a religious icon painted or embroidered on cloth- is ritually exhibited. The next unveiling is due to take place in AD 2004.Other monasteries which have summer festivals at Lamayuru( also early July), Phyang (Late July or early August), Tak-thok ( about tend days after Phyang) and Karsha in Zanskar( 11 days after Phyang). Like Hemis, the phyang festival too involves the exhibition of a gigantic thangka, though here it is done every year.

Spituk, Stok, Thiksay, Chemrey Matho all have their festivals in winter, between November and March. Likir and Deskit (Nubra) time their festivals to coincide with Dosmochey, the festival of the scapegoat, which is also celebrated with favour at Leh.Falling in the second half of February, Dosmoche is one of the two New Year festivals, the other being Losar.

At Dosmoche, a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is set up outside Leh. At the appointed time, offerings of stoma, ritual figures moulded out of dough, are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt.

These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleaned and made ready to welcome the New Year. Losar falls about the time of the winter solstice any time between 8th and 30th December.All Ladakhi Buddhist celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in the gonpas and in their domestic shrines.