Two-day Hemis Festival begins without mass participation

A monk performing mask dance during Hemis Festival at Leh on Sunday. —Excelsior/Morup Stanzin
A monk performing mask dance during Hemis Festival at Leh on Sunday. —Excelsior/Morup Stanzin

Excelsior Correspondent

LEH, June 20: The two-day Hemis Festival which is celebrated to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava also known as second Buddha, began today.
The annual festival which is also known as Hemis Tses-Chu is celebrated on the 10th day of the fifth month of Tibetan lunar calendar which is believed to be the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. On the direction of His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa, the head lama of Drukpa lineage, the monks performed the symbolic mask dance without allowing any devotees to attend the festivals, thereby adhering to COVID-19 guidelines strictly.

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For the second consecutive year in the history of Ladakh, the festival celebrated without any public participation. Due to covid-19 guidelines, Hemis Monastery- the largest monastery of Ladakh had announced to celebrate the symbolic festival without public participation.
The monks of Hemis Monastery wearing their best robes performed colourful mask dance in the empty court yard of the Monastery. During mask dance, the monk makes different gestures of hands and legs signifying good prevailing over evil.
The initial mask dancers include 13 black hat dancers comprising 13 monks who appeared wearing a complete tantric dress with great symbolic meaning. Then 16 dancers wearing copper gilded masks captivated the audience. These are believed to be the divine fairies. Then there were the eight manifestations of Guru Padmasambhava which are the principal forms he assumed at different points in his life.
Later in the afternoon session, there were 12 Zhing Kyong dancers who are protectors of the Buddha’s teachings. Then, Serkyem- a libation or beverages offering rites was performed by the Lobpon (main teacher) of Hemis.
Hemis Monastery Chakzot Nawang Otsal said that the famous Hemis festival is not just a symbolic festival but is sacred ritual to bring peace, prosperity and harmony among all sentient beings in the entire world.