India is the land of festivals, where people of different ethnicities live relatively peacefully together. The festivals are organized at different levels - at the state level, according to religious divides or according to ethnicity. The large number of festivals testifies to a rich culture and rich traditions.
In our series on Indian festivals, this time we will focus on Hemis which is a two-day Buddhist festival. It is celebrated in the Hemis Monastery in Ladakh in the Kashmir region. This region is administered by India and is one of the most troubled corners of the country. Both India, Pakistan and China demand sovereignty over the area.
The Hemis Festival is celebrated annually in June / July and marks the birthday of Guru Padamsambhava and the victory of good over evil. According to legend, this Indian guru defeated demons and evil spirits. Padamsambhava means born of Lotus and traditional biographies claim that as an eight-year-old he allowed himself to be incarnated out of a lotus flower. Some stories may also tell that it was this guru who is said to have brought Buddhism to Tibet.
On this day, Hemis Monastery is beautifully decorated and is the center of the festival. Here the area's beautiful crafts are exhibited, and the natives dress in beautiful traditional costumes and gather in the courtyard of the monastery, which is the largest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh. Buddhist llamas and monks dance the sacred mask dance to the sound of drums, cymbals and up to 3-4 meter long metal trumpets.
The mask dances, also known as 'Cham Dance', are one of the festival's highlights. Here the victory of good over evil is depicted. The dances are accompanied by plays. According to tradition, the monks should wear long dresses, elaborate masks and headgear. Each mask has a special meaning attached to it. A figure of dough representing the evil forces is crushed by the dancers and the pieces are thrown in four different directions. The ritual indicates the purification of the soul after death.
The otherwise so cold landscape comes alive during the festival, which is one of the most important Buddhist festivals, and which, in addition to gathering the locals, also gathers tourists from all over the world. The festival is a mix of entertainment, history, culture and spirituality.
Scenes from the festival Hemis
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