High up in the Himalayan ranges in the Indian state of Jammu & Kashmir lies the region of Ladakh which is known as the land of high passes. Leh is the main city of the region at an altitude of 3,500 metres. The region is breathtakingly beautiful with snow-clad mountains rubbing shoulders with vast arid deserts and glacial lakes.
An ancient Himalayan spiritual tradition
Ladakh is also the land of mystical Tibetan Buddhism and is dotted by ancient monasteries that have stood the test of time and carry forward the Buddhist culture and religion to this day. One such ancient monastery is the Hemis Monastery located about 40 kilometres from Leh.
The Hemis Monastery is famous for the Naropa Festival which is a celebration of spirituality, dance, music, and culture. The festival brings together the Buddhist masters and devotees from across the world under one roof for a period of five days. The Naropa Festival celebrates the life and times and teachings of Naropa a Buddhist master who lived between 1016 to 1100 CE. The festival is not only a forum for spiritual discussion but also a celebration of the unique local culture through the medium of dance and music.
The festival used to be celebrated once in 12 years and was a grand affair when the holy relics of Naropa were brought out as well as the crown and jewels, which were handed down by him were worn by the spiritual head of the Drukpa lineage. The sacred ornaments are believed to be so holy that devotees believe that the mere sight of them would help in salvation.
More festivities to come
The Naropa Festival is held in the month of September or October and has now been made an annual affair. The 2018 edition of the festival concluded in grand style in September and all eyes are on 2019 when the next edition of the festival will be back.
Photographs courtesy of the Sandy and Vyjay