Leh Hemis Festival: Of Magic and Masked Dances

Smita Jha

Last updated: Aug 23, 2017

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Hemis National Park, famous for the Snow Leopard


Ladakhi handicrafts like rugs, wall hangings, shawls, pottery, wicker baskets and trinkets


Thukpa (Noodle Soup) and Momos


Hemis Gompa, the 300 year old Buddhist monastery


Hello: Ta-shi-de-Leh / Juley
Goodbye: Kah-Leh shu / Juley
Thank you: Thu-chi che

Want To Go ? 

I just got back from the Leh Hemis Festival and am still all in a flutter after having experienced one of the most vibrant displays of an ancient mountain culture. Some trivia: in 2014, the festival coincided with the Kalchakra (the Wheel of Time) in Ladakh and the Dalai Lama himself was here to consecrate the monastery.The splendour of Hemis monastery and the enchanting two-day festival transported me to a land made of dreams. 

So here are a few reasons why you should witness this festival at least once in your lifetime.

The Mystic Masked Dance Of The Lamas

The mask dance performance is the main attraction of the Hemis Festival


Ever seen Lamas dance? Well, here they do, in their tell tale burgundy and mustard yellow attires. The old and the young gather to partake and witness this performance, the re-telling of their ancient mythological stories and folklore. The real spectacle is provided by the masked performers wearing horns, multicoloured ribbons and brocade clothes that shine in the bright July sun. And believe me, some of those masks are more expressive than us. The Chams are a part of the Tantric tradition performed to a cacophony of indigenous musical instruments. The music starts on a slow note and quickly picks up pace as the narrative becomes intense. It keeps building up to a hair raising climax when the leader of the Black Hat dance strikes down the devils idols (made of dough) in combat victory. The message is one that been around for eternity, that good prevails over evil. Its execution through the masked dance performance is what takes your breath away.

There is History to it

Admire the remarkable setting of the monasteries, covering one side of a hill


Ladakh monasteries are a beautiful amalgamation of Indian, Tibetan and Chinese Buddhism. Hemis festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. During the celebrations, a seat is decorated in fancy silk and gemstones and prayer offerings are placed around it. It is said the Guru Padmasambhava bravely fought off evil doers to protect the people of his land. The Hemis monastery is the largest and richest in Ladakh housing idols engraved with precious and semi-precious stones. It is also home to the biggest Thangka or sacred silk painting in Ladakh region, which is unfurled once in twelve years.

Souvenirs, Souvenirs Everywhere

Take back beautiful souvenirs for your loved ones


The colourful fun-fair has numerous stalls where one can purchase untold riches. These Ladakhi handicrafts and indigenous goods are marvellous pieces of work. There are hand-woven rugs, wall hangings and shawls in bright colours. There is pottery, wood craft, wicker baskets, woollens, bags and trinkets galore. You can get postcards, prayer flags and books to gift your friends and family.

Eating Out in Leh

Satiate your taste buds with mouth-watering delicacies such as Thukpa


To feed your hunger after an exciting day at the Gompa festivities, enjoy a steaming lip-smacking meal at the little Tibetan cafe right outside the monastery in Ladakh. There is something heavenly about eating a variety of rice, noodles, Thukpa and Momos accompanied by the delicious sauces, in the chilly atmosphere of the mountains.

Do You Really Need A Reason To Go To Leh?

The stunning landscape of Leh will take your breath away


Leh has the most splendid landscape ever. The warmest summer months in the plains are the most pleasant in the upper reaches of Himalayas. The monastery is itself a blissful haven surrounded by brown austere hills and bright yellow mustard fields. You can also hike up to the Hemis National Park and get a chance to see a snow leopard.

Don't miss out on the festivities next year and plan your Leh holiday with MakeMyTrip. Here are a few tips for your short vacation in Leh:

Budget: Rs. 17,000* for 2 people for a 4 day trip (inclusive of B category hotel)

*Prices may vary

Distance From Delhi: over 1200 km (1 hour 30 min by flight) 

Traveller Type: Family, Friends

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