Hemis Monastery is the biggest and the most important monastery in Ladakh. Hemis is located 49 km south from the town of Leh, a little off the Indus river road. Hemis Gompa was built in the 17th century by Chapgon Gyalshas and ever since has enjoyed the patronage of the royal family of Ladakh.
Hemis Monastery is the headquarters of the red Gat Drukpa order and all the monasteries throughout Ladakh are administered by it. Hemis is also the place where young Lama’s are trained for the royal monasteries at Leh, Shey and Basgo.
In the 19th century, Hemis Monastery faced a siege by General Zorawar Singh. The other Gompas around Leh were saved due to the skillful handling of the situation by the head Lama. In 1956, the head Lama mysteriously disappeared and was never seen again. Following the loss of the head Lama a young 12-year-old boy was brought from Dalhousie in Chamba district of Himachal Pradesh to be appointed as head Lama.
The monastery has quite a few gold statues and stupas decorated with precious stones. It has a superb collection of thankas, including one which is supposed to be the largest in existence and is exhibited only once every 11 years.
Hemis festival is dedicated to Lord Padmasambhava venerated as the Dance performance at Hemis monastery representative reincarnate of Buddha. Also known as Guru Rimpoche, he is believed to have been born on the 10th day of the fifth month of the monkey year as predicted by the Buddha. It is also believed that his life mission was and remains to improve the spiritual condition of all living beings. So on this day, which comes once in a cycle of 12 years. Hemis monastery observes a major extravaganza in his memory. The observance of these sacred rituals is believe to give spiritual strength and good health.
The Hemis Monastery festival takes place in the rectangular courtyard in front of the main door of the Gompa. The space is wide and open with two raised square platforms, three feet high with a sacred pole in the center. A raised dais with a richly cushioned seat with a finely painted small Tibetan table is placed with the ceremonial items- cups full of holy water, uncooked rice, tormas (made of dough and butter incense sticks).
A number of musicians play the traditional music with four pairs of cymbals, large-pan drums, small trumpets and large size wind instruments. Next to the musicians, a small space is assigned for the lamas to sit.
This annual festival falls during the months of June/July and is a big tourist attraction, Masked dances are held on that day. The famous Thanka was exhibited in 1980,1991,2002 and 2013. The next showing will be in 2024.
Hemis is considered the most important of all the Monasteries in the Ladakh region. Hemis has an entry fee of Rs 50. Hemis is also the most beautiful of all the monasteries in Ladakh and is a must-visit Gompa for all those who come to Leh.
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