Drukpa Buddhists Celebrate Hemis Festival

The two-day annual Hemis Festival by the Drukpa Buddhists was celebrated at the Hemis Monastery in Leh, with an attendance of more than 75,000 guests from all over the world and blessed by Ladakh’s spiritual head, the Gyalwang Drukpa.

Celebrated on the 10th and 11th day of the 5th lunar month, the Hemis Festival marks the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava or Guru Rinpoche, the 8th century Indian guru revered for spreading Tantrayana Buddhism throughout the entire Himalayas.

The courtyard of Hemis Monastery, the biggest Buddhist monastery in Ladakh, is the permanent venue for the celebrations.

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On the first day of the Hemis Festival, the first dance was setting limit or 13 black hat dancers, followed by sixteen dancers wearing copper gilded masks. Then there was the eight different forms of Padmasambhava followed by Guru Padma Vajra.

On the second day, the monks would continue their traditional performances on various instruments, put on exhibition the thangka-painting of silk patwork of great Gyelsey Rinpoche.

The monks afterwards assembled in hall and started the worship of Maharaja Pehara, a protector of Buddhist teaching. At 11 am the eleven senior monks came out in the retinue of Maharaja Pehara. It was announced today, June 28.

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The Drukpa Buddhists follow the Mahayana Buddhist tradition in philosophy – the philosophy of “getting enlightened for the benefit of others” and the methods are based on the Tantrayana teachings passed down from the great Indian saint Naropa, born in 1016.

“Druk” in means “Dragon” and it also refers to the sound of thunder. In 1206, the first Gyalwang Drukpa saw nine dragons fly up into the sky from the ground of Namdruk, and he named his lineage “Drukpa” or “lineage of the Dragons” after this auspicious event.

Photo courtesy: Hemis Monastery

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Rakesh Raman