Festivals are one of the highlights you would not want to miss when you get to Ladakh. And for the local people and its faith, the auspicious time to earn religious merits.
One of the most important parts of the festivals is the Cham dance. These are the dances choreographed in great detail, and are performed by the monks. Each of these dances has a theme, which is to show the victory of good over evil and the nature of life.
Some of the masks are fierceful, not the sort of face you would want to meet on a dark night. Others might have the peaceful faces of the Buddha. They usually represent buddhist gods. The more fierce ones normally represent gaurdians or protectors in their wrathful tantric form. When not being used for the festival dances, these masks are often kept in the Gonkhang of the monasteries and you may see them hanging on the pillars if you are lucky.
The dances are usually held in the couryard of the monastery. The monks performs these mask dances as they performed centuries back. Nothing has changed since the day one. They mime to the deeply resonant music which is so spiritually uplifting for them as well as for any listener, tourist or locals. To lighten the experience, in between dances, a mask jester appears and might invite the audience to take part in a clown sequence, poking gentle fun at the unsuspecting participant and making everybody laugh.
Most of the festivals last for two days, starting on the first day with prayers for the safe proceeding of the festival. After the mask dances, on the second day.
These are the dates for monastery and other festivals / important happenings in Ladakh for the year 2018. *Dates are subject to change
1. Spituk Gustor
14th - 15th, January 2018
13th - 14th, February 2018 in Leh and Likir
2. Yargon Tungshak
19th - 20th, February 2018 in Yarma (Nubra)
3. Stok Guru Tsechu
24th - 25th, February 2018 in Stok
1. Matho Nagrang
1st - 2nd, March 2018 in Matho
1. Saka Dawa*
29th, May 2018 all over Ladakh
1. Yuru Kabgyad
11th - 12th, June 2018 in Lamayuru
2. Hemis Tseschu
23th - 24th, June 2018 in Hemis
3. Shachukul Gustor
30th June - 1st July 2018 in Shachukul
1. Stonge Gustor
1st - 2nd, July 2018 in Stongde (Zanskar)
2. Karsha Gustor
11th - 12th, July 2018 in Karsha (Zanskar)
3. Phyang Tserup
11th - 12th, July 2018 in Phyang
4. Korzok Gustor
15th - 16th, July 2018 in Korzok (Tsomoriri)
5. Thakthok Tseschu
22nd - 23rd, July 2018 in Sakti
6. Sani Naro Nasjal
26th - 27th, July 2018 in Sani (Zanskar)
1. Ladakh Festival
Celebrated at the beginning of september every years this date is the only one not fixed by astrologers. It is organised by the state tourist organisation, J&K Tourism, with help from the local authorities. The aim is to promote Ladakh's rich cultural heritage to the rest of the world. Processions, orchestras, folk dances and archery, along with monastic masked dance and drama performances. It is the festival of colour and culture.
1. Diskit Gustor
7th - 8th, October 2018 in Diskit (Nubra)
2. Thiksey Gustor
27th - 28th, October 2018 in Thiksey
1. Chemde Angchok
5th - 6th, November 2018 in Chemde
1. Galdan Namchot**
2nd, December all over Ladakh
8th, December all over Ladakh
* Saka Dawa is the most important Tibetan Buddhist festival day – celebrating Shakyamuni Buddha’s birth, enlightenment and parinirvana.
** Galdan Namchot is celebrated to commemorate Tsongkhapa, a famous teacher of Tibetan Buddhism whose activities led to the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Galdan Namchot also marks the beginning of the new year celebrations in Ladakh.
*** Losar is the New Year. Note, that in Ladakh there is a different date for Losar than in Tibet and other tibetan societies.