India is a land that gives importance to each religion and respects every custom. India celebrates various occasions with grandeur and sparks. These festivals exhibit the culture of the region making it extraordinary and letting the world know about the beauty that India beholds. Hemis Gompa festival of Kashmir is one of the festivals that India celebrates which is an extravagant mixture of religion, custom and the region’s striking culture.
Hemis Gompa fair or Hemis festival is a two days festival, celebrated on the tenth day of the lunar month of the Tibetan calendar which is believed to be the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava symbolizing the victory of good over evil. This festival is one of the most auspicious and celebrated occasions for the Buddhist community in India that comes once in a cycle of 12 years. The Hemis Festival is dedicated to the Tibetan Buddhist founder, Lord Padmasambhava, who fought the evil spirits and demons to protect his people. So the celebration of his birth anniversary to observe the sacred rituals is believed to give spiritual strength and good health to the people. The main festival is celebrated at the Hemis Buddhist Monastery, Ladakh. The Monastery exists since before the 11th century and holds the touch of a long history.
Various dance performances at the festival are the main highlights of the celebration. The main attraction of the Hemis festival is the masked dance popularly known as the ‘Chham Dance’ that depicts the victory of good over evil. In the dance, monks wear long gowns, masks, and headgears as per the traditions. The Chham dancers not just perform but show the tantric traditions of Buddhism. The fair also showcases various unique handicrafts, idols, Tibetan gems, and jewelry and hand-woven clothes and dresses. Lots of stalls and shops are put up for this cause. The festival also includes the dance of Lamas around the flagpole to the music of drums, cymbals, and longhorns.
The presiding person of the main event is the head Lama also known as ‘Rinpoche’. The festival takes place in the rectangular courtyard in front of the main door of the monastery. The courtyard is a wide-open space with two square platforms placed at a three feet high ground with a sacred pole in the center. There is a raised stage with an ornately cushioned seat and a finely painted Tibetan table where all the ceremonial items are kept. These ceremonial items are; cups full of holy water, uncooked rice, tormas (figures) made of dough and butter and incense sticks with a small space for the lamas to sit. During the celebration of the festival, musicians play traditional music with four pairs of cymbals, large-pan drums, small trumpets, and large size wind instruments.
Otherwise cold and quiet Leh and Ladakh come alive during Hemis Gompa fair. The season and weather of that time also contribute to the celebrations making it more extravagant, attracting tourists to visit and enjoy the famous Hemis Gompa festival.