6 Festivals In Ladakh To Best Experience Its Vibrant Culture

When visiting the land of monasteries, here are the festivals that will offer you a glimpse into local culture like no other.

Published On Jan 13, 2024 | Updated On Feb 23, 2024

Image

Planning a visit to Ladakh is always a good idea. No matter what season you choose the vast stunning landscape and the warm hospitality are bound to delight you. The sheer scale of the mountains, the azure lakes, and other geographical features apart, Ladakh is also extremely rich when it comes to culture. 
While monasteries in Ladakh keep making it to must-visit destinations in the region, they especially come alive during the festivals, making a trip to Ladakh during this time an absolute no-brainer. While some festivals like Matho Nagrang that fall in the winter months might be harder to explore given the climate conditions, others like Hemis and Ladakh Zanskar Festivals are right in the middle of the touristy seasons, and if you’re headed to Ladakh in that time, adding these to your itinerary is a must.

Here are some festivals in Leh Ladakh that you must experience once

Image

Also known as the Tibetan New Year, Losar Festival in Ladakh is a two-week-long festival. One of the most famous when it comes to festivals in Ladakh, this festival transcends religions and Ladakhis of all age groups and faiths celebrate it. 
Houses are cleaned and delicacies are prepared that are then offered to the deities. There are special prayers held in the monasteries and an evening procession called Metho is carried out. In addition to chanting, torches are another important element of this procession as fire is believed to ward off evil spirits. As is with the majority of festivals in Ladakh, dance and music performances are integral parts of Losar too.

Image

One of the most popular festivals in the region, Hemis Festival, Ladakh is one that you just cannot miss. Held in the month of June, which also happens to be peak travel season for Leh Ladakh, this festival marks the birth anniversary of the founder of Tibetan Buddhism, Guru Padmasambhava. It is held on the premises of the Hemis Monastery, which is the biggest monastery in the Leh-Ladakh region. Traditional mask dances or cham are organised, and sacrificial offerings are made.
Every 12 years, following the Tibetan calendar, in the year of the monkey, a massive 4-storey thangka or sacred tapestry featuring the guru is brought out and displayed.

Image

While not included in the list of religious festivals in Ladakh, this is a festival you must experience to better understand the region in its entirety. Every part of the Indian subcontinent has a harvest festival, and the Himalayan region is no different. Crops grown in Ladakh include naked barley, buckwheat, peas, mustard seeds, etc. and this festival in Ladakh is a celebration of the harvesting of many of these crops. 
There are theatre exhibits and folk dances that are organised in the capital city of Leh, and a polo tournament called the ‘Ladakh Festival Cup’ is also hosted each year. Lasting roughly 15 days, this festival in Ladakh takes place in the first week of September.

Image

The last event to mark the New Year celebrations in the region, this festival in Ladakh generally falls in the mid of February. This festival signifies the eradication of evil and was started by the Ladakhi royals. It starts with a huge wooden mast being set up outside Leh. This mast is decorated with flags and emblems, and lamas who are expert practitioners of the tantric practices make sacred thread crosses to trap evil forces and ghosts while other lamas chant through the ritual. 
This is one of those festivals in Leh Ladakh that are sure to thrill you and offer a glimpse into the culture like no other. If you like reading about the paranormal, you absolutely cannot miss this.

Image

Another of the festivals in Ladakh that are celebrated in the winter months, Matho Nagrang festival is held in the Matho Monastery located on the banks of the river Indus. As is the case with festivals in Ladakh, there are music and dance performances on the premises of the monastery but that’s not all. The star attraction of this festival in Ladakh happens to be two monks who emerge on this day from months-long meditation to channel oracles and make predictions that the entire region gathers to hear about and make decisions based on what they have to say. 
This is not something one is allowed to capture on camera, making it an experience you need to have in order to believe it. Held in the month of Feb-March, this is a festival in Ladakh you must see once.

Image

More commonly known as the Ladakh Zanskar Festival, this festival in Ladakh is quite similar to the aforementioned Matho Nagrang Festival. Held in the Karsha Monastery, this festival in Ladakh features a variety of masked dance performances and signifies the victory of good over evil. 
Here a layman is chosen by monks of the monastery and spiritually cleansed for him to be a channel for oracles to make predictions. This festival in Ladakh also sees a dance called the Black Hat Dance where a traitor ruler was killed by a monk to save the kingdom, marking the victory of good. The Ladakh Zanskar Festival is celebrated in the month of July making it perfect to include in your travel plans.


Photo: Shutterstock

POPULAR ON ZEST