One of the most popular and well-known Ladakh festivals is the Hemis festival which takes place in the Hemis Monastery. It is one of the most-awaited festivals here for its colours and vibrant masked dances that the Lamas perform. The colourful two-day festival is a grand affair for both locals and tourists. The dates for the Hemis festival vary based on the Tibetan Lunar Calendar. It is celebrated on the 10th day of the Tibetan Lunar month, to mark the birth anniversary of spiritual leader Padmasambhava who was the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.
Hemis festival takes place in the Hemis Gompa (monastery) which is around 40km from Leh. Built in 1630, the monastery is extremely popular. During the festival every year it sees huge gatherings of people who are here for the carnival-like atmosphere of the festival. There are entertainers who wear intricate and beautiful brocade dresses for the event, but the most important part of the event are the masked dances.
The festival gets an added boost of celebrations and energy every 12 years when an elaborate ‘thangka’ that represents Guru Padmasambhava is exhibited. The thangka is decorated with pearls and semi-precious stones and adds fervour to the festivities.