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Festivals

Festivals and other events

Photo gallery

Calendar

Festival name Monastery/Place 2017 2018 2019 2020
Spituk Gustor Spituk January 25–26 January 14–15 January 3–4 January 22–23
Dosmoche Leh, Likir, Diskit February 24–25 February 13–14 February 2–3 February 21–22
Yargon Tungshak Yarma (Nubra) March 2–3 February 19–20 February 8–9 February 27–28
Stok Guru Tseschu Stok March 6–7 February 24–25 February 14–15 March 3–4
Matho Nagrang Matho March 11–12 March 1–2 February 18–19 March 8–9
Ladakh Monlam Chenmo Leh May 17–21 May 6–10 May 25–29 May 13–17
Saga Dawa (Jipe Chonga) all over Ladakh June 9 May 29 June 17 June 5
Yuru Kabgyat Lamayuru June 21–22 June 11–12 June 29–30 June 18–19
Silk Route Festival Sumoor (Nubra) June 23–24 June 23-24 June 23-24 June 23-24
Sindhu Darshan Sindhu Ghat June 23-26 June June June
Sand Dune Festival Hunder (Nubra) July 1-2 July 1-2 July 1-2 July 1-2
Dalai Lama’s Birthday Choglamsar July 6 July 6 July 6 July 6
Hemis Tseschu Hemis July 3–4 June 23–24 July 11–12 June 30–July 1
Shachukul Kabgyat Shachukul (Changtang) July 11–12 June 30–July 1 July 19–20 July 7–8
Stongdey Gustor Stongdey (Zanskar) July 12–13 July 1–2 July 20–21 July 8–9
Ladakh Polo Festival Chushot July 11–17 July 11–17 July 11–17 July 11–17
Karsha Gustor Karsha (Zanskar) July 21–22 July 11–12 July 30–31 July 18–19
Phyang Tsedup Phyang July 21–22 July 11–12 July 30–31 July 18–19
Korzok Gustor Korzok (Tsomoriri) July 26–27 July 15–16 August 3–4 July 23–24
Takthok Tsechu Takthok August 2–3 July 22–23 August 10–11 July 29–30
Sani Naro Nasjal Sani (Zanskar) August 6–7 July 26–27 August 14–15 August 2–3
Ladakh Festival Leh September 20-23 September September September
Diskit Gustor Diskit (Nubra) October 17–18 October 7–8 October 26–27 October 14–15
Thiksey Gustor Thiksey November 6–7 October 27–28 November 15–16 November 3–4
Chemrey Angchok Chemrey November 16–17 November 5–6 November 24–25 November 13–14
Galdan Namchot all over Ladakh December 12 December 2 December 21 December 10
Ladakhi Losar (New year) all over Ladakh December 19 December 8 December 27 December 15

Festival details

Gustor Festivals

Gustor (dgu gtor) means "offerings on 29th day" of a Tibetan month. The 29th is the day before a new moon, a special day for the practice related to Dharma protectors (dharmapala). Gustor is an annual two-day festival which is special to the monasteries of the Gelugpa lineage of the Tibetan Buddhism. The festival includes monastic dances (Cham) of masked lamas representing the dharmapalas, propitiations and offerings to the protector deities. The festival is accompanied by the unveiling of the fierce protectors in gonkhangs (protector's temples).

Spituk Gustor is held on the 28th and 29th days of the 11th Tibetan month in Spituk monastery. The 29th day of the 11th Tibetan month is the most important day for dharmapala practice. The Spituk monastery has a very old gonkhang situated at the top of rocky outcrop. It contains the wrathful images of six-armed Mahākāla, Yamantaka, Dharmaraja (Kalarupa) and Palden Lhamo, the main Dharma protectors of Gelugpa tradition. They are usually masked by colorful veils but exposed during the festival. Hindu visitors often erroneously confuse it with "Kali Mata" temple dedicated to Kali Goddess.

Karsha Gustor is held on the 28th and 29th days of the 5th Tibetan month in Karsha monastery in Zanskar. Originally held in midwinter (at the end of 11th month), in the late 1980s the festival was moved to the summer by Ngari Rinpoche, head of Karsha monastery and Dalai Lama's brother, after a series of avalanches which killed several pilgrims en route to the festival.

Diskit Gustor is held on the 28th and 29th days of the 8th Tibetan month in Diskit monastery, the largest monastery in Nubra valley.

Thiksey Gustor is held on the 18th and 19th days of the 9th Tibetan month in the Thiksey monastery, the largest Gelugpa monastery in Ladakh. Originally held in the 12th month, the festival was transferred to 9th month. Unlike Spituk, Karsha and Diskit feltivals, Thiksey Gustor is linked to the 19th day, which (along with 9th day) is also noted as a day when the protector deities should be invoked.

Stongdey Gustor is held on the 18th and 19th days of the 5th Tibetan month in Stongdey monastery, which is the second largest monastery in the Zanskar region. The gonkhang of the monastery contains unusual paintings of the Dharma protectors outlined in gold on a black background.

Dosmoche

This is one of the most popular Ladakhi festivals, in which the monasteries of all Buddhist Schools take part. According to the Tibetan tradition, Dosmoche is celebrated on the 28th and 29th days of the 12th Tibetan month, i.e. at the end of the year, and precedes the Tibetan Losar (New Year). Dosmoche is known as a "Festival of the Dying Year" (lo si sku rim). Its purpose is to discard the evil spirits of the old year and to bring peace, prosperity and happiness to a New Year.

The main celebrations are held in Leh, in the courtyards of the Leh palace. Cham dances are performed by the lamas from different monasteries. Lamas of Thakthok gompa (the only Nyingma-pa gompa in Ladakh), known as experts in tantric practice, prepare special offerings called do – thread crosses designed to trap evil spirits. A special structure called dosmo (a tall wooden pole) is erected and decorated with streamers and auspicious symbols outside the town. On the second day of the festival it is torn down and burned with other offerings, which signifies that the evil spirits have been driven away from the town.

On the same days as in Leh, the Dosmoche festival is celebrated in monasteries of Likir and Diskit. Diskit is of special importance for Nubra valley people who cannot come to Leh due to the snow blockade of the road.

Yargon Tungshak

Yargon Tungshak is held on the 4th and 5th days of the first Tibetan month in Yarma (Charsa) monastery which is situated on the right bank of Nubra river (called there Yarma Tsangpo). The monastery is believed to be founded by Gyalwa Gotsangpa in 13th century. Yarma belongs to Drukpa tradition monasteries which are rare in Nubra valley. It is the remotest monastery in Nubra valley. The government has issued an order permitting domestic tourists to visit places beyond Panamik and up to Warshi, including Yarma gompa. However, this area remains out of bounds to foreigners. Yargon Tungshak is one of the most important festivals in Nubra valley.

Stock Guru Tsechu

The Stok Guru Tsechu festival is celebrated on the 9th and 10th days of the first Tibetan month in Stok monastery. Tse-chu (tshes bcu) means "the 10th day", the day of Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava). There is a small courtyard in the Stok gompa where the lamas perform monastic dance (Cham) wearing the masks, holding swords and spears. Huge crowds surround the courtyard and also the roof-tops of the gompa. The dance is accompanied by the sounds of trumpets, cymbals and drums played by the lamas sitting in a corner of the courtyard.

The main attraction of the festival is the two oracles who appear in the monastery courtyard in the evening, fully possessed and in trance. The oracles of the Stok village (known as Ser rang) are from a number of seven Ladakhi oracles being the mediums for Seven Rongtsan Brothers, violent spirits (btsan) resided in Ladakh for centuries. The Stok oracles are chosen according to the tradition, usually from lay people belonging to specific family lineages. The chosen oracles are prepared to the ceremony by a retreat discipline with purification and prayers for at least one month. The oracles start to run over the high roof-top of the gompa with bare eyes. They hold a sword in one hand and a spear in the other. In between, the monastic dance performance by lamas continues in the courtyard. The oracles raise loud voice representing themselves as invoked spirits. During the first day, the oracles wear the red headgear of the tsan deities, a long-sleeved garment, a short cape and a brocade apron. The second day, they wear short white trousers and small sleeveless brocade cloaks, and their heads are covered with woollen wigs. They answer private questions, give advice and predict future. According to a local belief, when the oracles choose to wear wigs on the first day of the festival, it heralds an unpromising period of famine, epidemic or war. At the end of the festival, a human figure made of dough is destroyed and the pieces scattered in all four directions by the black hat lama dancer.

Stok Guru Tsechu comes one week prior to Matho Nagrang, which is another oracle festival.

Matho Nagrang

The Nagrang festival is celebrated on the 14th and 15th days of the first Tibetan month in Matho monastery. Matho is the only monastery of the Sakya lineage in Ladakh. Nagrang is the main oracle festival in Ladakh. The two oracles of the Matho monastery are from a number of seven Ladakhi oracles being the mediums for Seven Rongtsan Brothers, violent spirits (btsan) resided in Ladakh for centuries. Formerly, the Seven Brothers were wild demons living in the lower region of Kham in eastern Tibet, in a place called Khawa Karpo ("White Snow"). When Padmasambhava came to Tibet, he subdued the demons, and they became the oath-bound protectors of the Buddhism. The Seven Brothers arrived in Ladakh in the early 15th century along with Lama Dorje Palzang (also known as Drungpa Dorje), the founder of Matho monastery. This Lama was a very great yogin and a skilled tamer of the demons. He was able to summon the Seven Brothers and bend them to his will, making them his servants. Two of the Brothers settled in Matho and were called the Nag rang. They are also known as the White and Red Rongtsan (Rong btsan dkar dmar). The statues of the White and Red Rongtsan are kept in the protectors' temple on the top floor of Matho monastery and unveiled only twice a year.

The mediums of the White and Red Rongtsan are specially selected from a number of senior monks of Matho. They are chosen by drawing lots on the 15th day of the 10th Tibetan month, during a ritual performed in honor of Gurgon (gur gyi mgon po), a special form of Mahākāla, protector of the Sakya tradition. Once selected, these monks are expected to undergo a long period of spiritual training to become suitable mediums. They have to undergo a one-year retreat, during which they propitiate Hevajra, one of the main tantric deities of the Sakya school. During the last two months before the festival (starting from the 14th day of 11th month, the Sakya Pandita's Mahaparinirvana day), they remain in strict isolation and meditate continuously. The monks perform the oracle function for only a limited period, usually four or five years.

On the first festival day, in the afternoon, some hours after the Cham dance has started, the oracles appear in the monastery courtyard and perform a dance with the other monks who are dressed as Mahākāla and surrounding deities. Then the oracles begin to run and jump back and forth. In a trance, they perform stunning acts, the most incredible of which is running blindfolded along the steep and high ramparts of the monastery. It is said that they are able to see through the eyes of the wrathful deities drawn on their chests and backs. This tradition was begun by an ancient Ladakhi queen who wanted to test the oracles' superhuman power. The oracles are also able to cut themselves with their swords without harm.

Thousands of worshippers throng to Matho during the Nagrang festival. They come with personal problems concerning finance and family well being. The oracles answer the questions and predict the future. They also identify individuals who have stolen, lied, or consumed excessive alcohol, and they may hit them with their weapons. According to a local tradition, when the oracles appear with red ribbons attached to their headgear during the festival, this warns the public of impending national disasters.

On the last day of the festival, when the ceremonies come to end, the oracles take some barley flour and throw it in all four directions. The amount falling in a particular direction indicates which part of the country will have a good or bad harvest.

Ladakh Monlam Chenmo

The Great Prayer Festival (smon lam chen mo) was established in Tibet in 1409 by Lama Tsongkhapa to commemorate Shakyamuni Buddha’s performance of miracles at Shravasti and fell on the 4th to 11th day of the 1st Tibetan month. The festival was banned by Chinese Government during the Cultural Revolution.

The festival was started in Ladakh region in the year 1991 under the title "Ladakh Monlam Chenmo". Initially it was a 3-day festival which was later extended to five days in 1992. This annual event is organised by All Ladakh Gonpa Association and it falls on 21st-25th days of the 3rd Tibetan month. Ladakh Monlam Chenmo is not associated with one religious tradition. It is inclusive of all the four major sects of Tibetan Buddhism (Kagyu, Gelug, Sakya and Nyingma) with the participation of over 16 monasteries.

During the festival a statue of Maitreya (Future Buddha) is carried on a throne through the Leh market from Chowkhang Vihara. Thousands of devotees from all over Ladakh come to Leh Chowkhang to pray and make offerings. The main purpose of the Monlam Chenmo Festival is to pray for the survival and spreading of the Dharma in the minds of all sentient beings and for world peace and harmony.

Saga Dawa (Jipe Chonga)

Saga Dawa (sa ga zla ba) is the name of the 4th Tibetan month. It is considered to be the most important month of the year for Buddhist practice since the dates of Gautama Buddha's birth, enlightenment and passing away fall in this month according to the Tibetan tradition. During this period, people emphasis on various Dharma practices like reciting mantras, performing sadhanas, offering mandalas etc. During Saga Dawa all positive actions are 100,000 multiplied.

In Ladakh, the most important events are held during Jipe Chonga, on the 15th day (full moon) of the 4th month, which commemorates Buddha's enlightenment (at dawn) and parinirvana (at dusk). This day is also popularly celebrated as Buddha's Day or Buddha Purnima in India. On this day people usually fast. Homes and gompas in Leh are illuminated and special prayers are conducted. Also, on this day the chortens are re-plastered and white-washed.

Silk Route and Sand Dune Festivals

The Silk Route Festival is held every year on the 23rd and 24th of June in the Sumoor village (Nubra valley), in the Sand Dune Leisure Park. The first time this event was held in 2013.

The Sand Dune Festival is held every year on 1st and 2nd of June in the Hunder village (Nubra valley), on the open ground near natural sand dunes.

The ancient Silk Route linked Tibet and Ladakh with Central Asia and Turkestan across the Karakoram pass which lies between modern India and China, in the Karakoram Range. The Silk Route passed through Nubra valley and the impact of this trade route is still evident. The double-humped Bactrian camels, which are native to the steppes of Central Asia, were brought to the Nubra valley during the time of the Silk Route trade. Now the camels grazing in the seabuckthorn groves near the patch of natural desert sand dunes is the main attraction for tourists visiting Nubra valley.

The two-day-long festivals keep the essence of the Ladakhi festival. They are marked by local dances and music, traditional sport (such as archery), local food and handicraft stalls as well as camel safari.

Sindhu Darshan

Sindhu Darshan Yatra is a celebration of Sindhu (Indus) river as a symbol of the communal harmony and unity of India, keeping in mind that the names India, Hindu and Hindustan are derived from Indus and Sindhu. The first time this event was run in 1997. The festival is held at Sindhu Ghat on the bank of Indus river which locates 8 km away from Leh, on the way to the Shey palace. The festival is held every year in June near a full moon. The date should be inquired here: http://sindhudarshan.in/

H.H. the Dalai Lama’s Birthday

His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama Tenzin Gyatso was born on the 5th day of the 5th Tibetan month of the Wood-Pig Year (year 1935) in Taktser, Amdo, Tibet. To avoid confusion, the birthday of H.H. the Dalai Lama is celebrated on a fixed date of the Western calendar: July 6.

In Ladakh, the main celebrations are held at the teaching ground known as Jivey Tsal ("Peace Garden"). It is located near His Holiness' residence in Choglamsar, around 7 km from Leh. The celebrations begin with the lighting up of butter lamp by a chief Lama Guest followed by the cake cutting ceremony and the prayer for His Holiness' Long Life. The event also includes a colorful cultural program.

Hemis Tseschu

Hemis Tseschu is held on the 10th and 11th days of the 5th Tibetan month in the Hemis monastery, one of the largest and most famous monasteries, belonging to the Drukpa Kagyu order. Tse-chu is the name of the 10th day (tshes bcu) of a Tibetan month, which is dedicated to Padmasambhava, an Indian Buddhist master invited to Tibet to spread Buddhism and to teach the tantras. He is known in Tibet as Guru Rinpoche, which means "Precious Master", and regarded as the "second Buddha". The 10th day of each Tibetan month commemorates one of the twelve essential episodes of Padmasambhava's life. According to the Drukpa Kagyu tradition, the 10th day of the 5th Tibetan month is regarded as the birthday of Padmasambhava. This day, Padmasambhava was born as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the ancient kingdom of Oddiyana. The name Padmasambhava means "Lotus-born", while his other name Tsokyé Dorje means "Lake Born Vajra".

Padmasambhava was born several years after the parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni. According to the different traditions...[Read more]

Shachukul Kabgyat

Shachukul Kabgyat is held on the 17th and 18th days of the 5th Tibetan month in Shachukul monastery (also known as Sarchukul and Sasakul) located on the Changtang plateau, east from Leh towards Pangong lake. Shachukul monastery is one of three main monasteries of Drikung Kagyu lineage in Ladakh along with Lamayuru and Phyang. Due to its remoteness Shachukul is not often visited by tourists. The festival is marked by Cham dance performed by lamas wearing masks of the Dharma protectors of the Drikung Kagyu tradition: Achi Chokyi Drolma, four-armed Mahākāla and others.

Ladakh Polo Festival

The festival goal is to give the tourists visiting Ladakh an experience of the authentic village summer life with local games like polo, archery, folk music, folk dance, traditional art, local drama and traditional cuisine. Local people believe that that polo game came to Ladakh from neighbouring Baltistan, and historians confirm that polo was brought here by King Jamyang Namgyal in the 15th century, after he married Gyal Khatun, a princess from Baltistan. The festival is held in Shagaran, village Chushot Gongma, 13 km south from Leh, every year from 11th to 17th of July. The first time this event was held in 2016: http://www.ladakhpolofestival.com/

Korzok Gustor

Korzok Gustor is held on the 3rd and 4th days of the 6th Tibetan month in the Korzok monastery located on the shore of the Tso Moriri lake. The monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kagyu tradition. This is the main festival for surrounding changpa, the Tibetan nomadic herdsmen.

Phyang Tsedup

Initially, the festival was held in winter, on the 28th and 29th days of the first Tibetan month, but it was shifted to summer in order to coincide with the tourist season. Now it is celebrated on the 28th and 29th days of the 5th month (on the same days as Karsha Gustor). It is held in Phyang monastery belonging to the Drikung Kagyu lineage of the Tibetan Buddhism. Besides the sacred masked dance of lamas (Cham), the highlight of the Phyang Tsedup festival is the huge (ten meter high) thangka of Jigten Sumgön (also known as Kyabje Jigten Gonpo), founder of the Drikung Kagyu lineage. The thangka is kept on exhibition during the festival once in three years; last time was in 2016.

Takthok Tsechu

Tse-chu is the name of the 10th day (tshes bcu) of a Tibetan month, which is an auspicious day commemorating Guru Rinpoche (Padmasambhava), an Indian Buddhist master invited to Tibet to spread Buddhism. Takthok Tsechu festival is held on the 10th and 11th days of the 6th Tibetan month in the Takthok gompa, the only Nyingma lineage monastery in Ladakh. According to the Nyingma tradition, the 10th day of the 6th Tibetan month has a special importance and is regarded as an anniversary of Padmasambhava. This day, Padmasambhava was born as an eight-year-old child appearing in a lotus blossom floating in Lake Dhanakosha, in the ancient kingdom of Oddiyana. The name Padmasambhava means "Lotus-born", while his other name Tsokyé Dorje means "Lake Born Vajra". The birth of Padmasambhava took place several years after the parinirvana of Buddha Shakyamuni. The Takthok monastery is built around a cave which is believed to be used by Padmasambhava for meditation in the 8th century.

Ladakh Festival

The main goal of Ladakh Festival organized by Jammu and Kashmir Tourism Department is to present and propagate the rich cultural heritage of Ladakh to the foreign and home tourists. The program includes: traditional polo game and archery contests, folk dances, music and songs from different parts of Ladakh, monastic dances in the monasteries, exhibitions of thangkas and handicrafts, food festival. The festival is run in Leh in several places: polo ground, LAMO (Ladakh Arts and Media Organisation) center, new sport stadium, FCI (Food Craft Institute), Chowkhang etc. This event is week-long and held in September. The dates should be inquired.

Galdan Namchot

The Galdan Namchot festival in Ladakh is celebrated on the 25th day of the 10th Tibetan month in commemoration of the parinirvana (passing away) of Tsongkhapa, founder of the Gelugpa school of the Tibetan Buddhism. This event is celebrated with special prayers and light offerings. During the festival, all the monasteries, public and residential buildings are lit up. While this festival is not directly related to Losar (New Year), it marks the beginning of the New Year celebrations in Ladakh that goes on till the Dosmochey festival.

Galdan (dga' ldan) or Ganden is the Tibetan monastery near Lhasa founded by Tsongkhapa, who died there in 1419. Galdan means Tushita ("Joyous") Heaven, where Maitreya (Future Buddha) is said to be teaching at present. Namchot (or Ngamcho) means "festival of lights".

Ladakhi Losar (New Year)

Losar (lo gsar) means "New Year". Ladakhi Losar is different from Tibetan Losar. Ladakhi Losar is celebrated on the first day (day past the new moon) of the 11th month of the Tibetan calendar, i.e. two months before the Tibetan Losar. Ideally, Ladakhi Losar should be close to the winter solstice (22nd December), while Tibetan Losar is held in February or March. This is reminiscent of ancient celebrations of Tibetan Losar which coincided with the winter solstice.

According another version, the tradition of celebrating Losar two months in advance of the end of the calendar year was started by king Jamyang Namgyal in the 17th century. The king, who was to wage a war against Baltistan during winter, was advised that any expedition before the commencement of new year would be inauspicious. Thus, he advanced the Losar by two months, and this tradition is still being followed by the Ladakhis.

The old strings of prayer flags are replaced with the new ones annually during Losar celebrations.