The D Day finally arrived. We were to leave early to attend Hemis Festival, the reason we went to Ladakh with Junglelore. To me, its like a bonus if I get to attend a local festival while I visit any state or place in India. Yes its crowded, noisy but the atmosphere is always electrifying. It makes me feel closer to my country as I get to know her better, through her people and culture.
Hemis monastery or gompa as it is called, is the largest in Ladakh and plays host to the Hemis festival every year. This festival is celebrated as the birth of Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.
The drive to Hemis was pleasant. The car had to be parked at the base, from where we did a mini trek of approx 1 km. And my excitement knew no bounds, onceI realized that today, being a state holiday, was like a mini fair for the locals. Dry fruits sellers, curio shops, games galore, food stalls.. This was going to be fun.
The monastery was soon in sight. Once YD bought the entry tickets, we jostled our way inside, in an attempt to find a suitable spot. We were in for a surprise once we realized that almost all seating places are paid and reserved. Nevertheless, we chose a corner for a better viewing angle.
Sign boards at designated places ensured that you don’t encroach .
I also got familiarized with red hat sects.
After a long wait of 2 hrs under scorching sun, the proceedings finally started around 11.00 PM. If you visit Ladakh in this month, ensure you are well equipped with a cap, shades and loads of sunscreen, or else there are high chances of your nose getting sun burnt.
The proceedings started with dull horn sounds .
This was followed by a guess what lies beneath game wherein a long curtain was slowly raised to reveal the face of the leader.
Finally we got to witness the much-anticipated Cham dance – the sacred masked dance performed by the Lamas. Though it took me some time to relate to this form of dance style, the masks, shoes and dresses have started weaving magic in the air.
After around one and half hour, we decided to leave the premises, because it was getting a bit monotonous and tiring. If you really wish to see the entire proceedings, I would recommend booking in advance to ensure a seating space and better viewing distance.
Leaving you with a panoramic view of the festivities and attendees:
We had our lunch at a makeshift restaurant – noodles, momos and Coke.
DB bought a sovenier from here:
and I bought one from :
The place was action packed. It felt as if entire Leh has arrived to witness the festival.
A bit tired , we headed towards our next destination: Thiksey Monastery. Beautiful architecture and contrasting landscapes are a speciality of this gompa.
It houses a huge statue of Maitreya Buddha as well as old tantrik paintings , as if giving a message of Yin and Yang.
Ladakh is a land of monasteries, but each one of them have something different to offer, a rich history, cham dance, tantric paintings, wooden statues, thousands of scrolls, scenic views, just keep your mind open and you are bound to experience the land in its full glory.
Post Thikse, we headed towards a less visited tourist spot: Sindhu Ghat and it was exactly the respite we had been looking for.
Looks like there was an attempt to develop it into a popular tourist hub. However, I am glad the plan didn’t materialize. We spent close to 2 hrs here for its sheer silent and serene surroundings.
An added bonus was our bird watching expedition.
yes, this is ladakh minus the touristy types. Please don’t visit this place if you are the selfie kind. Visit this if you are the person who at times want to be one with nature and forget about everything else, including yourself.
YD wanted us to be at Shanti stupa before sunset, and thus we started our journey towards the last destination for the evening.
Since we were early, we went to a cafe in the same campus. My fond memories of the trip include all the cafes we visited during our trip. They were not state of the art or offered Mocha or brownies, but the simple and tasty Ladakhi tea and Maggie they had on platter was the yummiest food I have had in any cafe since a long time.
This stupa was supposedly constructed by a Japanese monk. It offers some great photographic spots and time lapse recordings. My most beautiful capture is here:
The play of light and shadows was at its best during sunset.
This sunset brought down curtain to another fun-filled , relaxing, enlightening day , leaving us happy because we had our first Ladkahi tea and Maggie in a picturesque locale and amidst one of the sweetest people, you would ever come across.