Hemis Festival Tour
Dressed in vibrant, vibrant brocades with brightly decorated & richly adorned paper-mache masks the monastery lamas perform to a cacophony of drums, cymbals & longhorns at the birthday celebrations of Guru Padmasambhava. Join us in Leh, the capital of the former Kingdom of Ladakh to discover Buddhist gompas & monasteries perched on soaring hilltops, ruinous ancient palaces, snow-peaked Himalayan landscapes, local culture & ancient traditions of the annual Hemis festival.
Delhi - Leh. note: The flight from Delhi - Leh is not included in the cost of this tour. A lot of airlines fly direct. In the event you provide us along with your flight details, they will be there to meet you at Leh Airport & transfer you to your hotel. The evening is free to explore Leh.
Leh is the capital of the former Himalayan kingdom of Ladakh that now sits in the state of Jammu & Kashmir. The region is a giant highland desert sitting at 3524 metres above sea level, lying between the Karakoram & the Himalayan ranges characterised by a desolate moonlike landscape & snowy peaks. The town is still dominated by the now ruined Leh Palace, the former mansion of the royal relatives, built in the same style & about the same time as the Potala Palace. The 28 000 residents of the city are predominantly Buddhists & accordingly, Leh is the very much the heart & soul of Buddhist culture in the region.
Hemis Gompa is the largest monastery in Ladakh & the site of the annual festival commemorating the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, who is said to have brought Vajrayana Buddhism to Bhutan & Tibet. Revered throughout the Himalayan ranges & thought about the second Buddha, Guru Padmasambhava, the Lotus-born (popularly known as Guru Rinpoche, the Precious Master) was invited from India in the 8th century to conquer the dark & hostile forces transforming them into guardians & protectors of the pure dharma. In the process, the guru brought Vajrayana Buddhism - a revelation of the whole & ideal path to awakening.
Followers think that their path is the purest type of Buddhism with the aim of liberation from suffering and attainment of enlightenment. It is believed to be the path actually practised by Buddha with the teaching indelible, even still today within the whole Himalayan region.
This morning they make our way to the Hemis monastery (1.5 hrs drive), the largest and richest monastery in all of Ladakh. In the courtyard filled to capacity with local Ladakhis and pilgrims (at 9 am) Guru Padmasambhava birthday celebrations will commence.
A raised dais with a richly cushioned stool with a finely painted tiny Tibetan table is placed with the ceremonial items - cups filled with holy water, raw rice, tormas made of dough & butter & incense sticks. A variety of musicians play the traditional music with pairs of cymbals, large-pan drums, tiny trumpets & giant size wind instruments. Next, to them, a tiny space is assigned for the lamas to sit.
The festival highlight is the gathering of the lamas around the central flagpole performing the mystic mask dances (Chams) & sacred plays. Chams are fundamentally an element of Tantric custom, performed only in the gompas that follow the Tantric Vajrayana teachings & where the monks perform tantric worship.
Dressed in vibrant bright brocades with vibrantly decorated and richly adorned paper-mache masks (some extending over one metre in height) the masked dancers simulate combat between lovely spirits and nasty demons to the cacophony of drums, cymbals and long horns. The crowd unites in uproarious song and dance when the dough idol of nasty is destroyed by the leader of black hat dancers signifying that lovely has prevailed.
This afternoon offers a guided sightseeing tour of the town, dominated by Sengge Namgyal’s, nine-storey palace. The colossal stone structure is of the most captivating architectural ruins of the region. Built in traditional Tibetan style it sits in the foothills of the barren landscape. Constructed in the 17th century as the presidential palace for the King to mark the reunifying Upper & Lower Ladakh.
Above Leh Palace, on Namgyal Tsemo (Victory Peak) overlooking the town, are the ruins of the earliest royal residence at Leh a fortress type structure built by King Tashi Namgyal in the 16th century.
Visits will even be made to Sankar Gompa to view the picture of Avalokitesvara, inset with turquoise & shown with 1000 heads, arms & feet & 100,000 eyes, Shanti Stupa - built to commemorate 2500 years of Buddhism & inaugurated by his holiness the Dalai Lama in 1985. Overnight - Leh & Ladakh
Today offers free time for you to independently explore the area. You may require returning to the Hemis Gompa today as the festival continues (on a smaller scale) with a program of music, song, dance & drama. Transportation to the monastery can be arranged locally ought to you require.
If staying in town for the day thinking about visiting the Leh bazaar. The main sites to visit are the Jokhang, the new main Buddhist temple built in the 1980s by the Ladakh Buddhist association & an imposing mosque reflecting a mix of Islamic & Tibetan architecture that accommodating over 500 worshippers dating from the late 17th century situated opposite each other. Overnight - Leh & Ladakh
Today offers guided tours of Shey & Thiksey monasteries & Stok Palace. Shey monastery situated on a hilltop, 15km from Leh, was the summer palace of the royal relatives of the region. The monastery houses a storey high-seated picture of Buddha cast from copper & covered with gold leaf. It is also believed that Kings of Leh were born here.
Thiksey monastery is situated on a hilltop & the views of the green Indus valley from its rooftop are splendid. This monastery has various chambers filled with statues & stupas. Courtyard murals are bright & this imposing structure is in plenty of respects a replica of Potala Palace in Lhasa.
Stok Palace now operates as a museum wherein the Sengge Namgyal relatives heirlooms & relics are displayed. Overnight - Leh & Ladakh
Leh - Delhi. Early this morning (dictated by flight times) they transfer to the airport for our flight (booked independently & in addition to our tour cost) to Delhi arriving at about 8:30 am. Later today you will be transferred to the airport for your onward international flight.
Opt to extend your stay and explore the sites of Delhi. Additional tour accommodation is obtainable in Delhi ought to you require.
- All sightseeing program as per the itinerary.
- All transfers, sightseeing & excursions will be by an AC Vehicle.
- Services of an English speaking local guide for the monuments as per the program.
- All entrances to the monuments and activities as per the program.
- Road taxes, parking fee, fuel charges and interstate taxes as per the program.
- Mineral water bottles in the vehicle [02 bottles each day]s
- Wet tissues places in the vehicle for the entire tour.
- Representative for assistance on all arrival and departure transfers with meet and Assist.
- All currently applicable taxes, including, GST of 5% applicable on total invoice amount.
Little gifts from Travel East:
- Departure Gift.
- Free WIFI in Vehicles.
- Expenses of personal nature like tipping, laundry, telephone / fax calls, alcoholic beverages, Camera /video camera fees at monuments, medical expenses, airport departure taxes, etc.
- Any meals, other than those specified above.
- Any meals other than specified in the quote-supplement mentioned above.
- Any insurance
- Any visa fees
- Any optional activities
- Any optional activities as mentioned in the program
- Domestic air-fare.
- Any other services not mentioned in the inclusion
- Any additional transfers
- Early Check-In/Late Check Out
- Any Tips / Porter charges