Leh (Jammu and Kashmir), July 14 : Large number of devotees and tourists are headed towards Hemis Monastery of Ladakh which is geared up for the three-day Hemis festival, which commenced today.
This festival is a time for great rejoicing for Buddhists across Ladakh region as well as many other monasteries elsewhere in India, Bhutan and Tibet.
Hemis festival is one of the most important festivals for the Buddhists, celebrated to mark the birth anniversary of Guru Padamsambhava or Guru Rimpoche.
Guru Padamsambhava, regarded to be an incarnation of Lord Buddha, is also credited to have introduced Buddhism to Ladakh and Tibet.
It is believed that Sakya Muni Buddha himself predicted the Guru's birth on the tenth day of the fifth month of the Monkey year.
The main events of the festival take place in the rectangular courtyard of the monastery.
The monks from Chemday and Hemis monastery are the main participant monks in the festival. They start practicing the mask dance a fortnight prior to the festival.
On the first day, the monks perform religious Chams dance without wearing masks.
"The preparations for the festival start days before but the main ritual is held for three days. The preparations for which are even done today. The lamas practice for the dance and also the Ladakhis make all the preparations for the festival," said Ven. Tsewing Rigzen, a Buddhist scholar and Head Monk, Hemis Gompa.
Local people come dressed in colourful attires and interact with their near and dear ones while the tourists try to learn about the Hemis Gompa to make their visit memorable.
Hemis Monastery, located 40 kilometers south-east of Leh is also known as the Chang Chub Sam Ling or 'the lone place of the compassionate person'. It was constructed by Lama Stagsang Raspa Nawang Gyatso in 1630.
The major attractions at the Hemis Monastery are a huge gilded image of the Sakyamuni Buddha with blue hair and a statue of Lama Stagsang Raspa.
Ladakh, which is northeast region of Kashmir, is one of the last strongholds of traditional Tibetan Buddhism. Located at a height of 14,000 feet, the picturesque region is also popularly known as the roof of the world. By Jigmet Angchuk