MONASTIC FESTIVALS: THE HEART AND SOUL OF LEH-LADAKH

From time immemorial, India has positioned itself as one of the world’s most popular tourist destinations and has attracted large number of tourists from far and near. The vast topography of the Indian subcontinent has also gifted the world many beautiful and exotic locations, but no place stands parallel to Leh and Ladakh in terms of the scenic beauty and serene ambiance. Leh and Ladakh have been the undeniable portrayal of Buddhism tradition and culture for centuries. Popularly referred to as “The Small Tibet”, the beautiful city of Ladakh is marked by a breathtaking and scenic landscape and beautiful monasteries that imbibe in them the ancient Buddhist culture with pride. However, Leh and Ladakh offers much more than just the serene panorama and magnificent monasteries. The place is also popular for numerous monastic festivals as part of the Ladakh cultural tours that are celebrated round the year, and add a new dimension to the ancient Buddhist and Tibetan culture and tradition.

It is always a good time to plan a trip to Leh-Ladakh as it is as beautiful all the year round. Nonetheless, living through the moments in the region during the festive season promises a peaceful and heavenly retreat that matches no other time of the year. Festivals in Ladakh serve as a platform that binds people together and brings out the liveliness of the cities. While each festival dates back its own rich heritage and significance, it is a common sight to experience traditional dancing of the lamas, huge vibrant masks and fun n frolic in and around the Gompas.

All these festivals and rituals take place to ward off evil and render a peaceful solace in the valley surrounding Leh and Ladakh. The vast list of festivals in Ladakh have an unprecedented history accredited to its existence, that commonly take place whilst remembering and paying homage to the legendary Monks who discovered the monasteries in the periphery.

The Ladakh festival calendar is replete with many vibrant festivals that are known to revere and celebrate every single occasion in life, be it marriage, season of harvesting or fond remembrance of the founder Lamas, or even to mark the onset of a New Year. The sight of feasting, dancing and singing traditional songs gives life to the ancient heritage of Leh-Ladakh. These monastic festivals are the heart and soul of the life in the region and are a true depiction of the majestic Monasteries and preaching of Lamas. In this section, we present to you a detailed insight on the Ladakh festival dates and venue, so that you can include them in your itinerary when you plan on visiting Leh-Ladakh anytime soon.

Spituk Gustor



Spituk Gustor

SPITUK GUSTOR: SYMBOLIZING VICTORY OF GOOD OVER EVIL

A two-day religious festival of ‘Gustor’ is celebrated each year in the Spituk Monastery, which is known to attract tourists and local inhabitants in large numbers. Mask dances, or ‘cham’ performed by lamas is the star attraction of the Gustor festival, which is choreographed beautifully by the lamas themselves. These dances are a representation of destruction of evil spirits and the triumphant victory of good over evil. The dancers adorn themselves with colorful masks that symbolize the Guardians and Gods & Goddesses in the Gompa. While some masks represent benevolent spirits, others are fierier.

While some dances are performed in pairs, followed by the appearance of idols of the reigning monarch, other dances are showcased in groups, and reflect the spirit and liveliness of the local inhabitants of the Spituk Gompa. The festival chips down with the burning of an effigy that symbolizes the assassination of evil.

Wee hours in the morning is perfect to visit the Spituk Monastery during festive period. The Gustor festival is also marked by the unveiling of magnificent idol of Goddess Kali during which, it is open for public display. It is such a feast to see the colorful dances coupled with unimaginable energy sparked by the crowd and the local music that fills the air with great enthusiasm.

When: January
Where: The Spituk Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES January 25-26 January 14-15 January 3-4 January 22-23
Leh And Likir Dosmoche


Leh And Likir Dosmoche

LEH AND LIKIR DOSMOCHE: SOWING THE SEEDS OF INTEGRITY IN FULL SPIRITS

The Dosmoche is a popular Buddhist festival celebrated each year in Ladakh and was originated by the Ladakh royalty. It is celebrated with great fervor in the courtyards of Leh Palace, Leh and Likir Monastery. The festivities thrive for two days every year in which monks from adjacent monasteries flock and perform Mask dances, or ‘Cham’ one after the other. This festival marks the onset and culmination of the Tibetan New Year.

The Dosmoche festival is believed to have been celebrated to safeguard the inhabitants of the Monasteries in Leh and Likir from evil spirits. The main highlight of this festival is the lamas from the Takthok Monastery prepare offering with Thread crosses in an attempt to ward off all the evil spirits and guard the region against any natural calamity for many years. On the second day, as the sun rises, these offerings are carried out of town in large congregation and burnt, followed by echo of whistles of people that can be heard all around the valley to drive away the malign spirits.

When: February
Where: In and around Leh and Likir Monasteries

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES February 24-25 February 13-14 February 2-3 February 21-22
Yargon Tungshak



Yargon Tungshak

YARGON TUNGSHAK: CELEBRATING THE UNDYING SPIRIT OF LADAKH

Ladakh is known for a beautiful amalgamation of rich cultural heritage and divine preaching of Buddhism. As we delve deep into the history of Ladakh, we can see intricate spiritual culture and social ethnicity that makes this place stand apart from the remaining part of the country. One such festival is the Yargon Tungshak festival in Nubra Yama which throws light on the social and cultural aspect of Ladakh.

The festival is marked by the famous ‘Cham’ dance by the locals, under the supervision of the lamas. It is a pleasant sight to see people dressed up in vibrant attires and face masks, performing enchanting and rhythmic dance moves in the courtyard arena of the monastery. These masks are made of clay and paper and sometimes animal masks are used too. Natural colors and gold and silver polish make these masks look stunning. These masked dances have been into existence in Ladakh since 8th century.

Each mask depicts an ancient legendary creature that symbolizes myriad moods of Tibetan Gods. A portion of dance involves 20 participants perform, close to spectators and enact a drama onstage, with focus on one legend at a time. Monks perform these dances to the melodious tunes of many instruments like cymbals, conch shells, bells and long horns.

When: February/March
Where: Nubra, Yarma

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES March 2-3 February 19-20 February 8-9 February 27-28
Stok Guru Tsechu



Stok Guru Tsechu

STOK GURU TSECHU: OF MONKS AND ORACLES

The Stok Guru Tsechu festival is the pride and prestige of Stok Monastery and is celebrated each year with great zeal in the month of February. It commences on the ninth day after the Tibetan New Year and includes local dances called Cham by lamas followed by prayers.

This festival depicts the Stok Monastery in vibrant hues and it offers a beautiful sight of local inhabitants and Monks dressed up in colorful attires and perform monastic dances in the open arena of Stok Gompa. The festival is celebrated over a period of 2 days. On the second day, two oracles chosen by lamas themselves are prepared to receive the spirit of deities. They are also believed to forecast the future of the Stok Monastery and the local population in the region.

Tourists also witness rhythmic chanting of Tibetan and Sanskrit Mantras that render such a splendid and positive vibe in the entire valley. Any trip to Leh-Ladakh is going to be incomplete without experiencing the spiritual festivities in Stok Monastery, amidst the enchanting escapades and towering mountains around. If you are seeking inner peace and rejuvenation, this is the place to be at. The sumptuous delicacies prepared by the locals there is a blessing in disguise and the warm hospitality of the people ensure that you rejoice these moments for lifetime.

When: February/March, a week before the Matho Navrang festival in Matho Monastery
Where: Stok Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES March 6-7 February 24-25 February 14-15 March 3-4
Matho Nagrang


Matho Nagrang

MATHO NAGRANG: SEEKING DIVINE BLESSINGS OF THE ORACLES

The Matho Gompa is blessed with the very famous Matho Nagrang festival that attracts tourists in large number each year from all parts of the world. It falls on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan Calendar and the celebration takes place for two eventful days, where tourists can treat themselves to the breathtaking view of monks adorned with colorful attires personifying Gods and Goddesses of Ladakh. These attires are weaved in silk and the vibrant masks lead to a wonderful addition to the overall get up.

During the festivities, monks residing in the monastery perform mesmerizing mask dances, popularly known as ‘Cham’ by the local population, with great enthusiasm. Another highlight of the festival is the arrival of two oracles, who meditate for an entire month, totally shunning themselves from the outside world. These oracles are presented by mask dancers in the courtyard of Matho Gompa and are believed to forecast the prospects of people in the future. Tourists gather in large numbers to seek blessings and advice from these oracles, that helps them in dealing with any catastrophe.

When: February/March
Where: Matho Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES March 11-12 March 1-2 February 18-19 March 8-9
Saka Dawa


Saka Dawa

SAKA DAWA: FOR AN ENCHANTING SUMMER RETREAT

In case you are planning a summer retreat this year in Leh-Ladakh, the Saka Dawa festival is certainly not the one to miss. Although all festivals in Ladakh are celebrated with great enthusiasm, with participation of the locals in large number, the Saka Dawa festival is considered to be one of the most benign and respected festival out of all others.

The fourth month of the Buddhist Tibetan calendar marks the onset of the Saka Dawa festival. This festival holds a great historical and cultural significance in the history of Leh-Ladakh, especially for the Buddhist followers. It is believed that on the full moon day of this month, the great Buddha took birth, and reached the stage of enlightenment, before attaining parinirvana. This festival is celebrated over the entire expanse of Ladakh and on this day, lamas of the adjacent monasteries change the famous Tarboche flag pole with uttermost respect and decorum, situated on the south-side of the great Kailash Kora Mountain. People of Ladakh hold a strong belief that after the flag pole has been changed, if it still does not stand erect, it is a sign of being inauspicious.

When: May/June
Where: All over Ladakh

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES June 9 May 29 June 17 June 5
Yuru Kabyat



Yuru Kabyat

YURU KABYAT: INSTLLING PEACE AND HARMONY

The Lamayuru Monastery is situated approximately 125 kms away from Leh and is popular for its Yuru Kabyat festival that takes place each year in the month of July. It is a two day festival which is celebrated with great zeal amidst the ravishing beauty of the Lamayuru Gompa, and attracts large number of tourists each year, especially during the time of festivities.

The festival is marked by masked dances performed by monks as well as the locals. These dances are then followed by rituals and prayers for restoring peace and harmony in the world. The Lamayuru Monastery is believed to belong to pre-historic era. This monastery is said to have been originated from the Drikungpa Branch of the Kagyudpa sect of the Tibetan Buddhism. The roots of the Yuru Kabyat festival dates back to Yuru Kabyat, along with his connections as per the Buddhist mythology.

So brace yourself to visit the beautiful Lamayuru Monastery and witness the whimsical Yuru Kabyat festival as it brings people together and strives to make the world a better place to live in. It is a pleasant sight to see monks imitate the preaching of Tibetan Buddhism and dance to the melodious tunes of traditional music. The festival marks its end with the sacred practice of demolition of the statue with the belief to free the inner demons and instill peace and harmony everywhere.

When: June/July
Where: Lamayuru Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES June 21-22 June 12-13 June 29-30 June 18-19
Silk Route


Silk Route

SILK ROUTE FESTIVAL: CELEBRATING PRIDE OF THE NUBRA VALLEY

The Silk Route festival derives its name from “Silk Route”, the greatest route in the history of mankind that connects Ladakh with Turkestan, Central Asia, bordering China across the Karakoram Pass in Xinjiang. The central trading route between India, China and Central Asia passes via the Nubra valley in Ladakh, accounting for the influence of these ties in and around the region.

To facilitate the acknowledgement of the Silk Route, the Nubra valley is showered with the cultural extravaganza of the vibrant Silk Route festival each year. The festival aims at recognizing the talent of Sumoor, the venue for Silk Route festival, in playing a key role in the economic development of the region of Ladakh. Since its inception, this festival has been successful in promoting tourism in Ladakh and giving a deep insight to visitors into cultural and traditional lifestyle of the people.

The festival is celebrated with sumptuous feasts, traditional dances, games, and frolic without disturbing the ecological balance of the region. Locals throng with mesmerizing display of handicraft items that includes gifts, souvenir, furniture, decorative pieces, houseware and ethnic dresses. Visitors are also introduced to traditional food, served in many stalls thereby promoting indigenous local food. Stalls are beautifully designed emulating a village appeal and is a star attraction of the fest. Locals dress themselves in beautiful attires, adorned with precious gold and silver ornaments and perform group dances on folk songs, filling the entire valley with its charm. To promote the heritage of Nubra, special attention is given to host events like archery, camel safari and traditional sports.

When: June
Where: Sumoor, Nubra

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES June 23-24 June 23-24 June 23-24 June 23-24
Ladakh Polo Festival


Ladakh Polo Festival

LADAKH POLO FESTIVAL: CROSS CULTURAL CELEBRATIONS OF HARVEST

The famous Ladakh Polo festival is celebrated each year in Leh and in nearby villages in the month of July. The fest commences with a beautiful inauguration ceremony in Leh on a very large scale and goes on for an entire week. A huge procession of diverse cultural dance troupes from different regions of Leh-Ladakh take part and paves through the Leh market. The procession is accompanied by singing, dancing and traditional music. It is a rejoicing retreat to see people dressed up in colorful ethnic costumes.

The 6 day festival also includes regular celebrations in neighboring villages and sports like archery and polo. Masked dances from locals from nearby monasteries offer a scenic respite, in addition to a wonderful and heart pounding music concert too. There is also an artistic display of local art and handicrafts of the region, giving tourists an insight into the rich heritage of Leh-Ladakh. The Ladakh festival culminates at the Polo ground and gives a wonderful depiction of a smooth transition of religious procession from one monastery to another. People from all the nearby regions celebrate the festival with utmost joy and enthusiasm and welcome the season of harvest with open arms, making this as one of the most cherished festival to attend in the region.

When: July
Where: All over Leh-Ladakh

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 11-17 July 11-17 July 11-17 July 11-17
Hemis Tsechu


Hemis Tsechu

HEMIS TSECHU: A MUSICAL EXTRAVAGANZA

Hemis Tsechu is one of the most popular festivals celebrated in the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh. This festival takes place to celebrate the birth of the founder of Tantric Buddhism in Tibet, ‘Guru Padma Sambhava’. In order to honor the Guru, a four storey high ancient painting of Guru Padma Sambhava is displayed in the courtyard, along with many other precious paintings.

The two day long festival includes procession carried out by locals dressed up in colorful robes and masks. Locals flock in large numbers to perform well coordinated mask dances. The second day of the celebration is concluded with sacrificial and divine offering. The festival falls on the 10th day of the Tibetan lunar month and is declared as a state holiday in Ladakh to mark the onset of the festivities. The colorful masks and artistically decorated silk robes worn by the performers resonate with the guardian deities belonging to the Hemis Monastery. Men dress up in cummerbunds and women wear colorful headgears and precious ornaments that highlights the merriment of the fest. The dance choreography holds relevant significance that depicts the mystical feats and achievements of Guru Padma Sambhava, to defeat the enemies of Buddhism.

Tourists from all over splurge on handicrafts displayed by the locals that represent their craftsmanship and dexterity. To sum up, it is indeed a mesmerizing escapade to see energy filled lamas perform mask dances and tapping their foot to the tunes of musical drums, long horns and cymbals.

When: June-July
Where: Hemis Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 3-4 July 23-24 June 11-12 June 30- July 1
Shachukul Gustor


Shachukul Gustor

SHACHUKUL GUSTOR: INDUCING LIFE WITHIN THE SHACHUKUL MONASTERY

Shachukul Gustor is celebrated in the Shachukul Gompa, as evident by the name of the monastery that resonates with it. The monastery is located 14,000 feet above the ground, right in the center of the Shachukul village and dates back its foundation by Lama Choje Denma Kunga Dragpa. This festival is celebrated each year in the month of July in this monastery in the divine presence of more than 70 lamas.

‘Gustor’ stands for ‘Sacrifice of the 29th day’ and is takes place to celebrate the victory of good over evil. The two days long festivities begin with a splendid dance performance that sees tourists brimming in large numbers each year. Performers adorn themselves in black hats and colorful costumes as a symbol of victory of good over evil. The vibrant color masks represent divine deities of the Geluk-pa sect and many other Gods of Buddhist relevance. Another segment of the dance resonates around the killing of Lang-dar-ma by a lama around the 9th century.

The highlight of the second day of the festivities is mass distribution of the sacrificial cake called ‘storma’ by the leader of the dance troupe. This endeavor is referred to as ‘Argham’ by the locals and signifies destruction of all evil spirits. It is usually suggested to book a Ladakh tour package that sums up all the facilities and a tour to Shachukul Monastery, without giving these festivities a miss. The month of July, that marks the onset of festivities in Shachukul Gompa bring back life in the valley surrounding this Gompa and personifies the dedication and free mindedness of the locals.

When: June/July
Where: Shachukul Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 11-12 June 30- July 1 July 19-20 July 7-8
Stongdey Gustor


Stongdey Gustor

STONGDEY GUSTOR: THE HEART AND SOUL OF STONGDEY GOMPA

The Stongdey Monastery is one of the few monasteries situated in Zanskar with a fleet of exquisite temples in its premises. It is a jaw dropping experience to feel the calmness of the spectacular surrounding and lush green expanse all around it. Majority of the Stongdey Monastery comes under the direct governance of Shakya Zangpo and is one of the most spectacular monasteries for a divine retreat. The experience just gets better during the period of festivities of the famous Stongdey Gustor that witnesses the monastery brimming with tourists around this time of the year.

The Stongdey Gustor festival is celebrated every year in the month of June in Stongdey Monastery. The festivities takes place on the 28th and the 29th days of the eleventh month as per the Tibetan calendar. The key attraction of the Stongdey Gustor is the customary artistic dance performances by the monks as a symbol of attaining divine blessings from the Almighty.

Tourists flock in large numbers as it gives them a break from the urbane lifestyle and see monks dressed up in bright ensembles and decorative masks. The zeal with which these dances are performed symbolize the integrity and high spiritedness of Stongdey Monastery and the region of Ladakh as a whole. Include this festival in your itinerary and there would not be an ounce of regret that comes with it.

When: July
Where: Stongdey Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 12-13 July 1-2 July 20-21 July 8-9
Karsha Gustor


Karsha Gustor

KARSHA GUSTOR: REVELRY OF JOYOUS DEFEAT OF THE EVIL

Every year, the famous Gustor festival is celebrated at the Karsha Monastery with pride. The two days of merriment takes place to celebrate the triumphant feat of good over evil. Karsha Monastery, being the largest Gompa in the entire region of Zanskar is home to more than 100 lamas and during the time of festivities, the Black Hat dance of these monks and rural population is a festive retreat to watch out for.

Another eye candy is the famous masked dance that forms the core of all Gustor festivities. These dances are performed by Monks who adorn illustrative masks that bear resemblance to the Guardians, Protectors and deities. This masked dance is performed on the same lines as Cham and gives a brilliant and colorful sight all around.

Monks perform prayers during the early morning hours, which is the time to be around and experience the serene air. On the onset of the second day, burning of effigies of malign spirits and the customary symbolic assassination of evil takes place, that bring the period of celebrations to an end.

When: July/August
Where: Karsha Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 21-22 July 11-12 July 30-31 July 18-19
Phyang Tsesdup


Phyang Tsesdup

PHYANG TSESDUP: CELEBRATING BUDDHISM IN FULL SWING

The Phyang Tsesdup is an annual Buddhist festival that is celebrated with great zeal in the Phyang Monastery, situated at a mere distance of 10 kms from the Spituk Monastery. The beautiful monastery, adorned in white and ochre shades over a hilltop calls for a spectacular view of the rustic surroundings. Apart from the splendid view close to Nature, the monastery is filled with the vibrant hues of festivities that makes it one of the popular choices of tourist destination.

The Phyang Tsedup festival is celebrated in the month of July/August and falls on the second and third day of the sixth month of Tibetan Calendar. It is marked with congregation of monks in appealing and colorful attires and decorative masks representing many Gods and Goddesses, tapping their foot to the traditional and divine tunes echoing in the valley.

The festival is celebrated to commemorate the preaching of Lord Buddha and giving a folic touch to the occasion. What is more appealing is that a gigantic Tibetan Buddhist painting, or Thanka of Skyoba Giksten Gonbo, is hung in the courtyard for public display. People pay homage to this huge painting of him, who happens to be the founder of the Degunpa style of teaching. Monks perform their routine rituals and chant prayers to emphasize on the teaching of Buddha amidst playful cheers and applause.

When: July/August
Where: Phyang Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 21-22 July 11-12 July 30-31 July 18-19
Korzok Gustor


Korzok Gustor


Korzok Gustor

KORZOK GUSTOR: GIVING AN INSIGHT INTO NOMADIC CULTURE

The Korzok Gustor is a two days long celebration that takes place each year in Changthang region, adjacent the shore of Lake Tso Moriri. Tso Moriri’s shore is amongst the most spectacular shorelines in Ladakh, surrounded by vast expanse of blue lake. The lush green stretch of woods renders a rare breathtaking view in a landscape that can be as barren as Ladakh. Such is the grandeur of the lake and scenic landscape that instils peace in the minds of travelers with great ease.

The Korzok Gustor that takes place in a small monastery in the center of the village of Korzok is attended by plethora of monks, pilgrims and nomads belonging to the Chang-pa tribe. Tourists find it fascinating to catch a glimpse of Chang-pa nomads that congregate in small tents and tend to their flock of sheep to produce a precious wool type-the Pashmina. Thus, in addition to the grandeur of the festivities, tourists are also attracted to the nomadic way of life of these tribes and cherish these moments with their loved ones.

The proceedings for this popular Buddhist festival commences early morning prayers adjourned by the lamas to the sound from dung-chens or trumpets inside the monastery premises. It is accompanied with masked dances of the Monks as they replicate the stories from the Buddhist teachings in the form of traditional dance steps to the sound of drums and bells. The legendary black hats adorned by these monks symbolize the assassination of an impious king by a Buddhist lama in the ancient history. These dance performances are a major crowd puller as tourists and locals both push themselves into the monastery arena to catch a sight of every moment during these dance performances.

The second day begins with paying utmost due and respect to the animals thriving in the Ladakhi region who have played a pivotal role in aiding the locals to make their livings. These monastery animals include a horse, Pashmina Goats and a rare gigantic Yak, filling the hearts of each and every attendee with pride. Lamas extend their blessing to them by applying butter and a maroon paste on their body, signifying the importance of these speechless creatures. The show is proceeded with dispersing of sacrificial cake, or ‘torma’ by the leader of the dance troupe. This ceremony, called ‘Argham’, symbolizes the victory of good over evil.

When: July/August
Where: Tsomoriri

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES July 26-27 July 15-16 August 3-4 July 23-24
Dakthok Tsechu


Dakthok Tsechu

DAKTHOK TSECHU: MUSICAL FIESTA AMIDST THE VALLEY

Ladakh is a world renowned tourist destination known for its spectacular array of Buddhist monasteries. The Dak Thok Monastery is one of them which encompasses a cave chapel inside its premises. Dak Thok, meaning ‘Black Rock’, in Ladakhi nomenclature, resonated its name with the famous Dakthok festival celebrated every year between the months of July and August in the region.

This popular Buddhist festival is celebrated in reverence to the noble deeds of legendary lama Guru Rimpoche. The Buddhist sect comprises of disciples of Padma Sambhava or Guru Rimpoche, founder of the Tibetan Buddhism and the festivities that revolve around this sect symbolizes the spirit of the local inhabitants in the truest sense. The festival is celebrated on the tenth month of the Tibetan Lunar calendar and highlights the frolic and gaiety of the locals residing in and around the monastery.

The masked dances, or ‘Cham’, as they are locally called, form the highlight of the Dak Thok festival. The beautifully coordinated dances performed by monks as well as the local inhabitants portray a beautiful illustration of the wrath and compassion of deities as well as the local animals who contribute to the daily livelihood of the people. Tourists pay their reverence to the deities as the teachings of the Buddhist history and culture is inflicted on them. The festival is marked as a symbol of victory of good over evil. In addition to the symbol of pompous celebration and positive spirits of the people, this festival is also considered as a medium of social gathering where people from all around Ladakh, as well as tourists, join in and take part in the processions and merriment.

When: July/August
Where: Dak Thok Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES August 2-3 July 22-23 August 10-11 July 29-30
Diskit Gustor


Dakthok Tsechu

DISKIT GUSTOR: PRIDE OF THE NUBRA VALLEY

The Diskit Gustor is a popular Buddhist festival celebrated each year in Diskit Monastery in the Nubra valley in Ladakh. The festivities thrive for two days every year in which monks perform Mask dances, or ‘Cham’ one after the other. This festival marks the onset and culmination of the Tibetan New Year.

The festival is believed to have been celebrated to protect the integrity of the inhabitants in and around the Diskit monastery. The main highlight of this festival is the lamas from the Diskit Monastery prepare offering with Thread crosses in an attempt to ward off all the evil spirits and guard the region against any natural calamity for many years. On the second day, as the sun rises, these offerings are carried out of town in large congregation and burnt, followed by echo of whistles of people that can be heard all around the valley to drive away the malign spirits.

When: October
Where: Nubra

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES October 17-18 October 7-8 October 26-27 October 14-15
Thiksey Gustor


Thiksey Gustor

THIKSEY GUSTOR: CELEBRATING VICTORY OF GOOD OVER EVIL

The Thiksey Gustor is celebrated in the Thiksey Monastery in Ladakh and the festivities extend for 2 days, to signify the victory of good over evil. Gustor is also termed as ‘sacrificing the 29th date’ and the festival begins with early morning prayers. Monks chants religious mantras and extend their offerings to deities within the monastery premises.

The second day begins with performing sacred rituals by the “Black Hat Dancers”. This is followed by a dough cutting ceremony of the sacrificial cake. This cake, called the ‘Torma’ is distributed amongst the worshippers during a ceremony called ‘Argham’ or ‘Klling’ by the leader of the Black Hat dancers group, after which, the festivities culminate. This much loved festival in Ladakh re-iterates the belief that sooner or later, all bad things meet their end.

The festival depicts the celebration of victory of good over evil. Another attraction is the stage play of assassination of the traitor king Lang Darma of Tibet, by a Buddhist monk, again emphasizing on the triumphant victory of good deeds. It also involves burning of effigies of evils symbolizing peace and harmony.

When: October/November
Where: Thiksey Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES November 6-7 October 27-28 November 15-16 November 3-4
Chemday Wangchok


Chemday Wangchok

CHEMDAY WANGCHOK: THE FESTIVAL TO WORSHIP TRUTHFULNESS

The Chemday festival is a very spectacular festival celebrated in the Chemday Monastery on the 28th and 29th days of the ninth month of the Tibetan calendar. The term ‘Wangchok’ signifies guardians of the truth. Year after year, thousands of devotees worship Jakpa Melen, who is said to be the protector of the Drukpa lineage and many native families in and around Ladakh.

The festival is celebrated with great enthusiasm and includes sacred masked dances performed by the locals and monks in the monastery. The participation is open to visitors also, thus accounting for a large gathering of people who wish to experience this once in a lifetime experience. The second day is the famous ‘Mandala Puja’ that is conducted in the arena of the monastery. It is believed that this puja has high divine significance and helps in bringing peace and prosperity around. There is also an initiatory ceremony that takes place inside the monastery in which the successive reincarnations of Tagsang Raschen function as the main descendant.

This festival is the perfect winter extravaganza if you are planning a trip to Ladakh. Thousands of pilgrims visit the Chemday Monastery during the time of festivities and experience the divine and ethereal sound of prayers echoing in the valley, while rejoicing amidst the laps of the Mother Nature.

When: November
Where: Chemday Monastery

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES November 16-17 November 5-6 November 24-25 November 13-14
Galdan Namchot


Galdan Namchot

GALDAN NAMCHOT: THE PERIOD OF BEGINNING OF THE TIBETAN NEW YEAR

Leh and Ladakh blooms with vibrant and colorful festivals all the year round that fills the entire valley with its sparkling aura and scenic landscape. One such festival is the Galdan Namchot that is celebrated all around Ladakh and witnesses participation of tourists and locals in large number each year. This festival marks the beginning of the Tibetan New Year, and continues till the Dosmoche festival.

The Galdan Namchot festival is celebrated to honor the birthday and the day of attainment of Buddhahood of ‘Tsongkhapa’, an ancient Tibetan saint cum scholar, who was the founder of the Gelukpa school of Tibetan Buddhism preaching during the 14th century. The festival offers a breathtaking sight of illuminated monasteries, residential as well as commercial buildings. Locals prepare mouthwatering traditional dishes such as thupkas and soups and share meals with their friends and family. They also exchange ‘Khatak’, the traditional scarf to one another in reverence.

Like all other monastic festivals in Ladakh, the Galdan Namchot too is celebrated with captivating dance and drama sessions performed by monks. It gives a colorful appeal to catch the glimpse of monks dressed up in colorful attires and decorative masks and give a meaningful insight into the different aspects of the festival with full fervor.

When: December
Where: All over Ladakh

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES December 12 December 2 December 21 December 10
Ladakhi Losar


Ladakhi Losar


Ladakhi Losar

LADAKHI LOSAR: CELEBRATING TIBETAN NEW YEAR

The term ‘Losar’ literally means New Year in Tibetan language and is celebrated during winters. It falls in the eleventh month of the Buddhist year and is considered to be one of the most auspicious time for the Buddhists, who are known to celebrate this day with grandeur. The festival includes feeding idols, human being and animals and is carried out for a month. It is popular amongst young children and adults in the family alike.

The Losar festival culminates with the Galdan Namchot, that signifies the birth anniversary of Tsogkha pa, the founder of Gelukpa School of order. During the entire procession, people lit their houses, monasteries and mountains, and make offering in and around their gompas. The festival dates back its history to the 17th century when King Jamyang Namgyal led his troupe against the Baltistan forces in winter. Since then, it has become a tradition and celebrated each year in the eleventh month.

The month long procession involves demonstrating images of Ibex as a sacred symbol. It is believed that walls of the kitchen would bring in prosperity, and hence are decorated with dotted lines. Procession of fire, ‘Metho’ is taken away from the house, with chanting of slogans, with the belief of riding away ghosts and malign spirits, and return with ice blocks stored as a sign of prosperity. The festival is celebrated with great zeal in Losar, with all members of a family showing equal enthusiasm.

When: December
Where: Losar, Ladakh

YEAR 2017 2018 2019 2020
DATES December 19 December 8 December 27 December 15