Hemis Monastery is situated in Hemis, Ladakh. Its history goes back a long way before the 11th century without the exact date of its establishment being known. It borders two states of India, the state of Jammu and Kashmir. The monastery is identified with Buddhists from the Tibetan state. Hemis Monastery stands to be the largest monastic institution that has ever been witnessed in Ladakh. The Drukpa Lineage or the Dragon Order of Mahayana Buddhism owns the Hemis Monastery. His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa is the supreme spiritual head of the Drukpa Lineage or the Dragon Order of Mahayana Buddhists.
After the establishment which is not dated, it went to oblivion before the re-establishment in 1672 courtesy of the Ladakhi king Sengge Namgyal. This monastery is very symbolic to this sect of the Buddhists as it holds the annual festival that is referred to as the Hemis festival that is normally held in honor of Padmasambhava, who is an important figure within the ranks in Buddhism leadership hierarchy.
It is therefore imperative to understand the Hemis festival in order to appreciate the significance of the Hemis monastery. The Hemis festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava whose actual name was Guru Rimpoche. His birthday is believed to have been on the 10th day of the fifth month of the Monkey. The day which appears once in a 12 years cycle is a very important occurrence to the Hemis. For this reason, they hold a very big festival with a spectacular performance. This festival is believed to bring spiritual strength accompanied by good health.
The festival is normally held in a rectangular courtyard that is found near the main door into the monastery. The space is wide and open, a fact that makes it easy for the Hemis masses to stay put in the place without any major concern on the space issue. The ceremonial items are introduced to the crowd from a raised dias with a seat that is richly cushioned. A small table is placed near the seat and cups full of holy water, uncooked rice are placed on top of the table. The ceremonies begin very early in the morning with rituals that are so symbolic bringing so much attention to the ones undertaking them. Drums are beat and other musical instruments are sounded and in this loudness of the scenario, the portraits of Dadmokarpo or Rygyalsras Rimpoche are made conspicuous. This is the time that people who are close take turns in admiring the figures, a process that goes on for as long as possible in order for all to take part.
The climax of the festival is the part of mystic mask dances which brings out among other things, colours which are so bright making the festival glitter in the daylight. This goes on as it continues to mesmerize the crowd and the end of the day as the sun sets, the festival comes to a close and it is time for everyone to retreat.
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