Hemis Gompa festival is a two days festival celebrated in Ladakh region of Jammu and Kashmir. It is celebrated in Hemis Monastery which is also called Hemis Gompa. The second day of the festival marks the birth anniversary of Padmasambhava, an 8th Century Buddhist master and spiritual guru.
The term “Gompa” is used for Buddhist fortified schools of learning and meditation, something like a university. Gompas are common in Tibetan region including parts of China, India, Nepal and Bhutan.
Hemis Gompa Festival 2019
Hemis Gompa Festival in 2019 will be celebrated from Tuesday, 11th June 2019 to Wednesday, 12th June 2019.
When is Hemis Gompa Festival Celebrated?
Hemis Gompa festival is an annual celebration, held on the 10th day of Tse-Chu Lunar month as per the Tibetan calendar. Tse-Chu is the second lunar month in Tibetan calendar. The festival also marks the conclusion of harsh winter and the beginning of sunny days. However, the dates of celebration might vary each year.
Various Names of Hemis Gompa
In Laddakh the festival is known as Hemis Gompa Festival, Tse Chu ceremony, Tse Chu Cham, Hemis Tse Chu or simply the Hemis festival. In Bhutan the festival is called Paro Tse-Chu.
Why is Hemis Festival Celebrated?
Hemis festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of a Buddhist Guru named Padmasambhava, meaning lotus born. He was an 8th century Buddhist Guru and is also called by the name “Guru Rinpoche”. Hemis Festival is celebrated to commemorate his birth.
Legends of Padmasambhava
There are numerous legends attached with the life and deeds of Padmasambhava, and he was so much revered by Buddhists that they considered him as the second Buddha. The legend has it that he was born as an eight year old child, on a lotus, in the lake, Dhanakosha in the kingdom of Oddiyana.
Lake Dhanakosha is located in the present day Arunachal Pradesh and Oddiyana may be considered as referring to the state of Odisha. Later, Padmasambhava left his place of birth and moved on to northern Indian parts.
He started teaching tantric knowledge to a princess named Mandarava at Lake Rewalsar in the modern day Mandi district of Himachal Pradesh. When the king Vihardhara came to know about their relationship, he tried to burn Padmasambhava, but latter emerged unharmed when the fire and smoke subsided. Impressed by Padmasambhava’s supernatural powers, king married his daughter Mandarava to him.
Now, Padmasambhava with his consort Mandarava moved on to Nepal and finally to Ladakh, practicing tantric rituals as they shifted locations. Padmasambhava taught tantric teachings to the Tibetans for a brief while, before he was forced to leave by the suspecting court. By then, Padmasambhava had become well known as a tantric guru, in Tibet region.
As per the legend, King Trisong Detsen, the 38th king of Yarlung dynasty and also the first emperor of Tibet, who reigned between 742 AD to 797 AD, invited the head monk of Nalanda University, Santaraksita to Tibet. On the behest of King, Santaraksita started building, Samye, the first Gompa in Tibet. This endeavor of Buddhist religion was interrupted by the demons and other evil forces. Being a master of tantric practices, Padmasambhava was invited to Tibet, to subdue the demonic forces.
Padmasambhava successfully subdued the demonic forces by not destroying them, but by making them to accept Buddhism. Thus, King Trisong Detsen ordered the translation of Buddhist texts in Tibetan, which was supervised by Padmasambhava, making him the founder of Tibetan Buddhism.
Hemis Monastery (Gompa) Laddakh
Hemis monastery is a Gompa of the Drukpa lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. It is located in Hemis village, Leh Tehsil in Laddakh. It is the biggest monastery in Laddakh and a significant pilgrimage centre for Buddhists. In local language the monastery is called Chang-Chub-Sam-Ling and is known for exhibiting the charisma of Tibetan Buddhism.
The monastery is around 350 years old and is surrounded by Hemis National Park, making its view all more beautiful. The monastery itself is beautifully colored and decorated in an exceptional Tibetan style.
Every year, the Hemis Monastery holds the birth celebration of Padmasambhava, the tantric Buddhist Guru.
Celebration of the Festival
Hemis monastery is especially decorated for the Hemis Gompa Festival. The festival is celebrated to commemorate the birth of the venerated Tibetan Buddhist Guru called Padmasambhava. It is observed on the 10th day of Tse-Chu lunar month, the second month of Tibetan calendar; however, the exact date for the celebration is finalized by the head Lama. Lama is an honorific title given to a spiritual leader in Tibetan Buddhism.
The monastery is beautifully decorated to host the festivities. The monastery surrounded by cold arid dessert, suddenly becomes alive with bright colors and decoration, during the festival. Thousands of locals dressed in bright new clothes and tourists are present to witness the celebration.
A fare is also held with shops selling local handicrafts and traditional dresses. The celebrations are presided by the head Lama. Masked dance performances called the Chham dance is the main centre of attraction during the festival. The dance is performed in the rectangular courtyard of the monastery. Lamas dance around the central flag mast, to the tunes of drums, hand cymbals and long horns.
The dances depict the triumph of good over evil and are the centre of attraction in the festival. The dancers wear vibrantly colored costumes and large masks. Each mask holds a special significance and depicts a specific mythological character.
The dance concludes with the Head of Black Hat dancers, destroying a dough sculpture, depicting evil. The pieces of sculpture are thrown in all the four directions, implying the warding off of the evil spirit.
Every twelve years known as the Tibetan Year of the Monkey, the celebrations of Hemis Gompa Festival becomes grander. A large Thangka is unfurled from the second storey of the monastery. A Thangka is a Tibetan Buddhist painting on cotton and silk, usually depicting a Buddhist deity. Every year the same Thangka is displayed and is carefully preserved for another twelve years.
Significance of Hemis Gompa Festival
Hemis festival celebrates the birth of Padmasambhava, a Buddhist Guru and the founder of Tibetan Buddhism. He helped in the construction of the first Buddhist monastery at Samye in Tibet. He was successful in warding off evil spirits and establishing religion. His birthday has a moral significance of denoting the triumph of good over evil.
The festival also has cultural significance. It familiarizes Tibetan Buddhist culture to the tourists from various corners of India and abroad; giving them an insight into the Tibetan Buddhist’s religious beliefs and rituals. The celebrations also keep alive the beautiful ritualistic dances, introduced in the 17th century by Chogyal Terdag Lingpa, the founder of Mindrolling Monastery as well as lineage.
The festival also boosts up commercial activities in otherwise cold and silent Ladakh region. With thousands of tourists thronging to the monastery and nearby spots, local venders and other tourism based businesses get a fair deal of business.