Among many popular destinations in the northern part, Ladakh is surely an unavoidable part of Incredible India. Ladakh is situated at an altitude of 9800 feet in Jammu & Kashmir, which is also called the “Paradise on Earth”. The current region of Ladakh spreads from the Kunlun mountain range to the Himalayas in the south. Ladakh stands for “the land of high passes” covered with snow during the winters. The people of Ladakh are either the descent of Tibet or Indo- Arya, hence the history and culture of Ladakh are greatly influenced by Tibetan culture.
Ladakh shares its border with China and it is situated on the ancient silk route, hence a little influence of Chinese culture is also visible in Ladakh. Buddhism is the first religion in Ladakh followed by Hinduism. It is the home of many monasteries of great value and hence many tourists of India or abroad visits here every year.
Most of these monasteries follow the Tibetan Buddhism and celebrate their annual ladakh festival, which is a major tourist attraction in Ladakh. There is no better time to visit Ladakh during their Ladakh festivals to enjoy the famous Cham (masked) dance, dramas, silk garments, music, worship and the Tibetan cuisine.
Read more: Top 25 Tourist Attractions In Ladakh
21 Festivals of Ladakh
Here are the list of 21 Festivals in Ladakh that celebrates the life of the people in the Paradise on Earth. We believe you will be able to discover the less known side of Leh by exploring the festivals of Ladakh.
Festivals in Ladakh include the below:
- 1. Spituk Gustor Festival
- 2. Leh & Liker Dosmochey Festival
- 3. Yargon Tungsak Festival
- 4. Stok Guru Tsechu Festival
- 5. Matho Nagrang Festival
- 6. Saka Dawa Festival
- 7. Yuru Kabgyat Festival
- 8. Silk Route Festival
- 9. Hemis Tsechu Festival
- 10. Sachkul Gustor Festival
- 11. Stongday Gustor Festival
- 12. Karsh gustor Festival
- 13. Phyang Tsesdub Festival
- 14. Korzok Gustor Tsomoriri Festival
- 15. Dakthok Tsetue Festival
- 16. Sani Nasjal Zangskar Festival
- 17. Deskit Gustor Nubra Festival
- 18. Thiksay Gustor Festival
- 19. Chamday Wangchok Festival
- 20. Galdan Namchot Festival
- 21. Ladakhi losar Festival
Date: 14th -15th January 2018
Venue: Spituk Monastery
Gustor Gustor festival is the 2 days annual festival of Spituk Monastery. This colorful Gustor festival is celebrated in the 11th month of Tibetan Calendar and it symbolizes the victory of good over the evils. In this festival, the lamas perform Cham dance and their dances represent a story where the good wins over the evil.
The 2 days festival ends by burning an effigy which is a symbol of the destruction of evil. It is believed that these mask dances are a crucial part of Ladhak since the 8th century AD. The dances are performed by monks to the tunes of longhorns, cymbals, conch shells, bells and many other instruments. Gustor festival starts with a 7 days prayer prior to the main event, followed by 2 days Cham dance of lamas
Date: 13th -14th February 2018
Venue: Leh, Liker & Diskit Monastery
The Takthok Dosmoche Festival in Leh, Likir, and Diskit monasteries, is celebrated on the 28th and 29th day of the 12th Tibetan month. Takthok festival is considered to be the last Festival of Tibetan calendar year. The Takthok Dosmoche festival was initiated by the royals of Ladakh, to celebrate the eradication of the evils. It begins with setting up a huge wooden mast decorated with flags and holy emblems outside Leh. Senior Lamas from Takthok Monastery who have a forte in tantric practices and astrology make the intricate thread crosses to trap evil spirits, hungry ghosts, and demonic forces. Lamas keep on reciting prescribed mantras during the entire process.
Also, the mask dance is performed on this eve. The dance drama performed on this occasion are musically encrypted with the ancient musical instruments. The whole celebration takes place in the patio of the old chapel below Leh Palace. In the end, the ritual offerings are burnt. The destruction with great pomp and show implies eradication of all evil spirits. People believe that by celebrating Takthol festival, they will be safe from natural disasters in the nearby future.
3. Yargon Tungsak Festival:
Date: 19th -20th February 2018
Venue: Nubra (Yarma)
Yargon Tungsak festival is all about Cham dance and delicious cuisine. During the 2 days festival, all the villagers come together and assist the lamas to make the festival more memorable. The musical dance representation of stories is performed by lamas dressed in colorful attire and big masks.
During these two days, the Diskit Monastery and also the small monasteries in Nubra Valley continue to chant scared Sanskrit and Tibetan mantras, making the complete surrounding pious. Some of the performances are also done by village women. The monks offer prayers in order to bring peace on earth. Gurgur Cha, skyu and thupka are the preferred dishes during this festival.
4. Stok Guru Tsechu Festival:
Date: 24th -25th February 2018
Venue: Stok and Spituk Monastery
Stok Guru Tsechu festival is celebrated in the 1st month of Tibetan Calendar and this month is regarded as the Holy Prayer month. Stok Guru festival is all about celebrating the birthday of Guru Rinpoche’s (Padmasambhava) on the 9th and 10th day of Tibetan calendar. Stok Guru festival is celebrated nearer to the residence of the Ladakhi royals, which is about 20 km to the South of Leh, in association with the monks of Spituk monastery.
The monks select and prepare two locals of the village to receive the spirits of the deities. The monks chat prayer and present these two locals as the oracle, where they speak on behave of the ancestors and deities. They also forecast the major events of the year in this region.
Here, during Stok Guru Tsechu festival, the villagers play a key part and they are the central performer of the Cham Dance.
Date: 1st -2nd March 2018
Venue: Matho Monastery
Matho Nagrang Festival is celebrated on the 15th- 16th day of the 1st month of Tibetan calendar in the Matho Monastery. Matho monastery is the only monastery that belongs to the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism and hence has a special place among Tibetan monks.
The monks dressed in colorful silk robes and big masks represents the Tibetan God-Goddess. They perform the traditional Cham dance. This festival is also special as the two oracles appear in the courtyard and return to their home after completing one month of their meditation in isolation. They are accompanied by the monks in their Cham dance attire.
Date: 29th May 2018
Venue: throughout Ladakh
Saka Dawa Festival or the Holiest Buddhist day is a well-regarded festival among the Buddhism followers and is thoroughly celebrated in Ladakh. Sawa Dawa Festival is celebrated on the fourth month of the Tibetan Calendar on a full moon day. It is believed that on this very day Sakyamuni (Gautam Buddha) had achieved Nirvana (attained enlightenment) and it was the day of his rebirth as Gautam Buddha.
The followers refrain from killing and eating animals also the animals are set free for the day. During Saka Dawa festival, the lamas keep on chanting the mantras ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ which means hail to the jewel and the lotus and all the lamas of the nearby monasteries come together for the flagpole changing ceremony
7. Yuru Kabgyat Festival:
Date: 12th -13th June 2018
Venue: Lamayuru Monastery
Yuru Kabgyat Festival is an essential festival among the Buddhism followers and also a major attraction in Ladhak. During this 2 days of Yuru Kabgyat Festival, many Buddhist monks from countries like China, Japan, Korea and Tibet participate in this festival with great enthusiasm. As the Cham dance is an integral part of Tibetan culture, hence The Yuru Kabgyat dance consists of Chams in which the Lamas dance in the form of circles with large colorful masks.
This circular movement is accompanied by drum beats, long pipes, and cymbals. These masks are made from paper mache and there is also a thin coat of plaster enveloping it, portray the many deities.
The main figures portrayed are the Yama or the Lord of Death and Padmasambhava or the second Buddha who is also known to be the God of Wealth. He is regarded as a protector of horses and animals including the human race.
Date: 23rd- 24th June 2018
Venue: Nubra Valley
To promote different types of traditional food, cultural programme, handicrafts and traditional sport of Ladakh through the tourism activities, the villagers of Sumoor started the annual silk route festival. In 2013, the villagers requested Dr. Sonam Wangchok, the founder/secretary of Himalayan Cultural Heritage Foundation (HCHF) for collaboration and guidance. Since then every year the festival is celebrated to attract a lot of tourists.
Samstan Odsal Tsogspa and HCHF together organize the silk route festival on the ancient silk route and complement the newly discovered Sand Dune and Camel Safari in Sumoor. Silk Route festival is so big that the organizers provide proper accommodation, food, transportation facility in this area. Silk route festival is one of the best festivals to enjoy the Ladakhi lifestyle, food, art and culture at one place.
9. Hemis Tsechu Festival:
Date: 23rd– 24th June 2018
Venue: Hemis Monastery
Hemis Monastery is one of the most visited monasteries in Ladakh and it is home of about 500 Buddhist monks. The Ladakh Royals are the ardent patrons of this monastery and they are the main host of the Hemis Tsechu festival. Hemis festival is celebrated in honor of Guru Padma Sambhav’s birth anniversary and Hemis Tsechu festival is a 200 years old monastic festival. Every twelve years, the 12-meter long tangkha of Padmasambhava is displayed which is richly embroidered in pearls and semi-precious stones.
During this two days of Hemis Tsechu festival, the lamas of all age perform the Cham dance and culminating in destroying the sacrificial offering. Hemis festival is a very popular festival and every year a huge number of tourists participate with the same enthusiasm.
10. Shachkul Gustor Festival:
Date: June 30th– 1st July 2018
Venue: Shachukul Monastery
Among the nearby villagers of the Shachukul monastery and the 70 monks living in the Shachukul monastery, Sachkul Gustor Festival is a major 2 day festival. Sachkul Gustor festival is all about the sacrifice of the 29th day and it is the victory of good over evil. Unlike the traditional cham dance, in this festival, the lamas and monks wear black hat representing victory.
The dancers wear different masks portraying themselves as the patron divinities of the Geluk-pa order and other Buddhist gods. The dance performance also shows the killing of the cruel king, Lang-dar-ma by a monk in the 9th century.
The two day Sachkul Gustor festival ends with distributing sacrificial cake by the leader of the Shachukul Monastery among all. This distribution of cake accompanied with a blessing for wellbeing and good fortune is called Argham. Argham means the destruction of evil and construction of better tomorrow.
11. Stongday Gustor Festival:
Date: 1st-2nd July 2018
Venue: Stongday Monastery
Stongday Gustor festival is a mega-festival in the Stronday monastery of Zanskar region of Ladakh. Stongday Gustor festival is held on the 11th month of Tibetan calendar and it is celebrated in entire Zanskar region. It is the annual festival in Stongday monastery and the monks of the monastery are the host of this festival. During Stongday Gustor festival, the lamas and monks of the Stongday monastery perform the famous Cham dance with few ancient weapons in their hand.
Even though Stongday Gustor festival is celebrated in the entire Zanskar region, but stongday monastery is the best location to enjoy this festival.
12. Karsh Gustor Festival:
Date: 11th-12th July 2018
Venue: Karsh Monastery
Karsha monastery is the largest monastery in the Zanskar region of Ladakh as it is the home of 100 monks. Karsha monastery is the largest Geluk- pa or yellow- hat monastery. Karsh Gustor Festival is the annual festival of the Karsha Monastery and is very much celebrated in the Zanskar region. The theme of Stongday Gustor festival is the victory of goods over the evil and.
In this two day of Stongday Gustor festival, the monks perform the famous cham dance, the Black Hat Dance and Stongday Gustor festival ends with cutting the sacrificial cake. The masked Hat Dancers symbolizes the guardian divinities (Dharmapalas), and the benefactors of the Geluk-pa order. In this dance form, the performer’s re-enactment of the assassination of the Tibetan renegade, King Lang-dar-ma, of the 9th century by a Buddhist Monk. Effigy of the evil forces is burnt at the end of the festival
13. Phyang Tsesdub Festival:
Date: 11th– 12th July 2018
Venue: Phyang Monastery
Phyang Tsesdub Festival is an important annual festival at Phyang Monastery. Phyang festival is celebrated on the 2nd – 3rd day of the sixth month of the Tibetan calendar and it usually falls in the month of July or August. Phyang festival is dedicated to Jigten Gombo, founder of Dringumpa Monastic Dynasty. The lamas of Phyang monastery perform the Chaam dance in colorful attire with smiling masks. The music involves chanting of recitations from sacred texts.
Thankha of Jigten Gombo is also worshipped and marks the triumph of good over the evil. The 2 days festival is full of payers by the Lambas at the monastery, followed by the Chaam dance. Phyang Tsesdub festival is celebrated with full enthusiasm and a lot of messages of Lord Buddha are displayed in the form of exhibition and carnival. These carnivals and exhibition also comprise of many artifacts of Lord Buddha.
14. Korzok Gustor Tsomoriri Festival:
Date: 15th– 16th July 2018
Venue: Korzok Monastery
Korzok Monastery is the famous monastery in the Changthang region of Ladhak and the Korzok Gustor Tsomoriri festival in the annual festival at this monastery. This pious festival is not just limited to the Korzok village or Korzok monastery. Korzok Gustor festival is widely celebrated among the changspa nomadic groups, who are forced to wander in the nearby areas in search of grass for their cattle. This is also an important day for the nomadic and their families, as they return home to celebrates this festival.
The black hat dance and the cham dance are based on the teachings of Lord Buddha. The sound of trumpet, drums, and bells makes it loud even for the entire village to come together at the courtyard of the monastery and celebrate the festival together. During Korzok Gustor festival, the lamas also pay tribute to the death of the Tibetan defector King Lang-dar-mama, by a Buddhist priest in the mid-ninth century. A major part of the festival is the release for the merit of the monastery animals, including a horse, Pashmina Goats, and a particularly feisty yak, who charged the courtyard full of pilgrims.
15. Dakthok Tsetue Festival:
Date: 22nd– 23rd July 2018
Venue: Dak Thok Monastery
The annual Dakthok Tsetue festival is celebrated in the Dak Thok Monastery which consists of pairs of caves. These caves are individual shires and it is believed that Guru Padmasambhava has meditated in these cave during 8th centuries. This 2 day of Dakthok Tsetue festival is celebrated as a tribute to Guru Padmasambhava’s contribution in the Tibetan Buddhism. The lamas dressed in authentic long cham attire accompanied by the ancient musical instrument perform the cham dance here at the premises of the Dak Thok Monastery.
The members of this Buddhist sect (at this monastery ) are followers of Padma Sambhava or Guru Rimpoche. Dakthok Tsetue Festival is also celebrated to recollect the deeds of Guru Rimpoche for the betterment of the people in this region of Ladakh. The dancer represents the compassionate deities of Buddhism and the sacred animals. Dakthok Tsetue festival also acts as a major social gathering, where the villagers also organize best Ladhaki cuisine
16. Sani Nasjal Zanskar Festival:
Date: 26th– 27th July 2018
Venue: Sani monastery
The Sani monastery of the Zanskar region organizes their 2 days annual festival known as the Sani Nasjal Zangskar Festival. This monastery belongs to the Drukpa Kargyu school of Tibetan Buddhism and is the order’s only monastery in Zanskar where nuns are allowed to stay. This unique Sani Nasjal Zangskar festival is celebrated on the occasion of the blossoming of the Guru Neropa Flower.
It is celebrated in the 6th month of Tibetan calendar between 15th to 20th day. On this eve the statue of Guru Neropa is displayed and it is followed by the celebration. Lamas from the Bardan religious community perform conceal moves as custom contributions previously the
17. Diskit Gustor Nubra Festival:
Date: 7th-8th October
Venue: Diskit Monastery, Nubra Valley
Diskit Monastery is the largest and oldest monastery in the Nubra Valley. This monastery was Founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong-Kha-pa, who was the founder of Gelugpa (Yellow Hat) sect of Tibetan Buddhism in the 14th century. This monastery is a sub-part of Thikse Monastery. Diskit Gustor Nubra festival is a 2 day festival, celebrated as a mark of victory of good over the evil.
A big dummy that represents evil spirits or cruel creatures is brunt in the middle of the village near to the monastery. The traditional cham dance is represented by the Lambas which is accompanied by the musical instruments like cymbals, drums, and long horns etc. that played soul soothing rhythm. Diskit Gustor Nubra festival end with the assassination of the wicked dummy
18. Thiksay Gustor Festival:
Date: 27th- 28th October
Thiksay Gustor festival is the 2 day festival celebrated in the monasteries of Thiksey, Spituk and Karsha Nanzkar. As Gustor stands for sacrificing the 29th day, hence thiksay gustor festival also represents how good always wins over the bad. The sacrificial cake or the Torma is distributed among the participants of the festival.
The monks dress up in colorful dresses and perform cham dance, acrobatics, and drama. All of these performances represent the assassination of the Tibetan apostate King Lang Darma by a Buddhist monk in the mid-9th century. The leader of the Black Hat dancer ends the 2 days program and distribute the Torma
19. Chemday Wangchok Festival:
Venue: Chemdray Monastery
Date: 5th- 6th November
Chemday Wangchok Festival is the 2 days annual festival of Chemdray Monastery. Chemday Wangchok festival is celebrated on the 28th and 29th day of the 9th month of the Tibetan Calendar. Chemdray Monastery was established by the great Buddhist guru Lama Taktsang Repa around 365 years ago. As this monastery belongs to the Drukpa sect of Tibetan Buddhists, hence monks and lamas of this Sect are the hosts of this festival.
Prior to the Chemday Wangchok festival, some of the monks meditate for around a week. Various prayers and offerings to Guru Lama Taktasg continue on both the days of the festival. Later, during the eve, these monks perform the Cham dance. On the second day of Chemday Wangchok Festiva, the celebrations start with the Mandal pooja.
20. Galdan Namchot Festival:
Date: 2nd- 3rd December 2018
Venue: All over Ladakh
Galdan Namchot Festival is celebrated for commemorating the birthday and the Buddhahood of the Tibetan saint-scholar, Tsongkhapa. He was a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism and was the founder of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism in the 14th Century.
Galdan Namchot festival is celebrated on the 25th-26th day of the 10th month of Tibetan calendar and it marks the beginning of the new year celebration in Ladakh. Galdan Namchot festival lasts up to the Dosmoche festival and it is all about socializing or visiting the loved ones. During Galdan Namchot festival, people visit one another and share meals. ‘Khatak’, a traditional ceremonial scarf is also exchanged among each other.
21. Ladakhi Losar Festival:
Date: 8th December 2018
Venue: All over Ladakh
The Ladakhi Losar festival marks the beginning of the new year celebration and it is celebrated in the 11th month of the Tibetan Calendar. It is believed that Losar is an ancient traditional and spiritual festival that dates back to pre-Buddhist Bon era in Tibet. Later, In the 17th century, King Jamyang Namgyal thought about leading an expedition against the Baltistan forces in winter, as well as a celebration of the festival.
Since, then from the beginning of the festival, the God, ancestors, elderly people and even animals are properly fed on time. The locals paint their kitchen with the images of Ibex (a symbol that believed to usher-in good luck)and a procession of fire (Metho) is organized to ward off evil spirits. Also, the villagers and the monks of the nearby monastery unite together and perform prayers, Cham dance and authentic food.
Ladakh Festival Calendar for 2018, 2019 and 2020:
The tourism department had published the tourism calendar of Ladakh Festivals 2018, 2019 &2020. The pdf consits ofthe list of festivals in Ladakh with its dates for the year 2018, 2019 & 2020. If you need a quck reference, you can check them at the below link: Ladakh Festivals Calendar
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