“If you want to see Heaven once before you die, travel to Ladakh” – Anonymous. There’s so much said and written about the beauty of this magical place. A traveller’s paradise, Ladakh, exemplifies the word ‘pristine’ to the T. Not just for the nature but Ladakh is also known for its culture, lifestyle and rituals. And if you truly want to get a glimpse of the local folklore, you must definitely visit the Ladakh Festival. This year, the Festival, will be celebrated from 20th September-26th September.
Celebrated every year all across Leh-Ladakh and its villages, this festival gives a glimpse of the deep-rooted traditions and cultural heritage of the Ladhakis. Many tourists flock Ladakh during this time of the year, thus giving a boost to the otherwise lean tourist activities at this time of the year.
The festival typically begins with a grand inauguration. It is a spectacular march which is carried out by various communities, cultural groups, school children and dancers in colourful and traditional ensemble. They dance through the various streets and lanes in Leh with a foot tapping vibrant music played using traditional instruments. Previously, this celebration continued for 15 days. However, it has now been reduced to just 7 days.
The procession reaches the Polo grounds where the main celebrations begin. Monks dressed up in the traditional attires wearing colourful masks and dancing to the tunes of cymbals, flutes, and trumpets – it is indeed a visual extravaganza for all.
The highlight of the festival is the Archery competition and the Horse Polo even, which invite a lot of spectators. Archery being an extremely popular sport in Ladakh, every village has its own archery team!!!
This competitive spirit along with the folk music adds to the vivacious enthusiasm. Polo is also a traditional sport which was introduced in the mid seventeenth century. People in Ladakh are quite upbeat about this event as well.
If you are more of an ‘art fanatic’, the popular dance forms such as Yak, Lion, and Tashipa will certainly enthuse you. These cultural dances depict the stories, customs and ideologies of the region.
Leh-Ladakh also boasts of beautiful monasteries and this festival engulfs these divine and otherwise calm locations into its grandeur. People throng to enjoy the famous monastic dance. Monks dress up in grand, traditional and dynamic attire. The choreography of these dances give you a flavour of the ancient customs and perform to various fables that demonstrate the super-powers of the Lamas , victory of good over evil among several others. These dances are a form of meditation or offering for the deities of these monasteries.
Ladakh festival hosts a number of exhibitions which gives a great window for the various artists to display their art and creativity. Local as well as foreign tourists appreciate this widely. Also exhibited are the various priceless ‘Thankas’ and other instruments and belongings of the monastery which otherwise is under veils. Ladakh festival gives you an opportunity to view these rare displays. The closing carnival parade is a priceless memory for the spectators and you really can’t miss this one.
Do try the Ladakhi cuisine which is very much similar to Tibetan food, mildly flavoured but packed with nutrition. The most favourite among the tourists is the Thupka – thick soup with vegetables. Also do relish on Momos or Dumplings.
Leh – Ladakh is much beyond simply being a symbol of natural beauty and serenity. Ladakh festival is a perfect example of what this land actually entails .Ladakh festival is the perfect not-to-miss opportunity for every one of us to be a part and experience this celebration of life!