Hemis Festival-The Kumbh of the Himalayas, Ladakh

The Hemis Festival is dedicated to the birthday of Lord Padmasambhav (Rinpoche) who is said to have brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan and Tibet. The festival happens only once in 12 years according to the Buddhist calendar. Venue of the Hemis festival is the Hemis Monastery which is a Tibetan Buddhist monastery of the Drukpa Lineage, located in Hemis, Ladakh. Lots of tourists had gathered from many different places around India and abroad to attend this special occasion. As usual there was a hustle for seats but luckily I had got a nice spot among the audience with a clean view of the whole courtyard. The local Ladakhi folks, dressed in their traditional authentic colorful attire, were also present to witness the festival.

The essential part of the Hemis Festival is the mystic mask dances on the monastery’s courtyard collectively called as the ‘Chams performance’. The mystic mask dancers, in vibrant colorful costumes, danced in a particular rhythm and fashion. The orchestra was seated on the top and played an intriguing music with the beat of drums, the resounding clash of cymbals and the spiritual wail of pipes. It was peculiar form of dance were the dancers lifted their legs and took huge steps on each sound of the gong. It was fascinating to watch them perform and I was able to get some unique pictures for my collection as well.

I went further and explored the whole monastery in and out. There were lots of interesting rituals going on inside as well. But the crowd was chaotic and more over the lighting was very dull and using flash was not allowed. So I wasn’t able to shoot much inside the monastery.


The whole feel of the Hemis was mesmerizing and as a photographer it was a feast for my eyes to see such plenty of textured portraits roaming around in different variety attire. After the major event of the day, I started packing up my gear and headed towards the car. Miles away from the Hemis and even hours after spectating this beautiful event, I could still hear the sounds of the gongs played by the monks resonate in my head…

-Luv n Peace;


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