Festivals Ladakh

Famous Festivals Of Ladakh | When & Where to attend in 2023.

festivals of ladakh
Written by Raima Raj

Festivals of Ladakh is an extravaganza of art, tradition, and culture that is celebrated with great enthusiasm and joy throughout the valley. Bestowed with magnificent stretches of mountains, the highest passes, and magical views of the night sky, Ladakh attracts tourists from all over the world and to attend these fairs & festivals means immersing yourself in the enriching heritage exclusive to the region.

The influence of Tibetan Buddhism on Ladakh is palpable and reflects clearly on their culture, food, and even apparel. The festivals here are mostly celebrated to mark the victory of good over evil and masked dances, ceremonial chanting and rituals make these celebrations sumptuously vibrant and unique.

To give you an insight into the Festivals celebrated in Ladakh and to add more colors to your trip, we have prepared a brief guide that will help you explore its rich cultural diversity with ease

Most Popular Festivals of Ladakh

  • Losar Festival  
festivals of Ladakh
Ibex Deer Dance is being performed.

To welcome Buddhist New Year in the grandest way possible, the people of Ladakh venture into a 15-day-long celebration that is attended by several monks and dignitaries of Buddhist Countries.

Staged fights between good & evil, Ibex Deer Dance, and hand paintings in the shapes of sun, moon, and inverted Swastikas on each house’s wall are some of the key highlights of the festival.

The women also prepare incense sticks from Cedar, Rhododendron, and juniper branches to honor the incense-burning ritual rooted in Bon Religion. The two-week celebration lights up every monastery in the region and is undoubtedly one of the grandest Festivals Of Ladakh.

When? – The festival commences on the First day of the lunisolar Tibetan Calendar that mostly falls in February. It is celebrated for 15 long days and continues up till the first week of March. In 2023, it will be celebrated from 21st February.                     

Where? – Losar is celebrated in most of the monasteries across Ladakh.

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  • Dosmoche
festivals of Ladakh
Cham Dance is being performed at Diskit Monastery.

Also known as the ‘Festival Of Scapegoat ’, it is celebrated to protect and purify the town from evil spirits and is one of the most famous prayer festivals of the region.

This 2-day celebration is absolutely captivating to witness as young monks drape themselves in colorful robes, Black Hats, and various Face Masks representing Buddhist deities, including Buddha himself.

The sacred masked dance also known as Cham is performed to the beats of drums and music from Gyaling and Cymbals. Lamas from various monasteries chant a sacred mantra while weaving crosses to protect the people from demons and natural disasters. Adding to the festive spirit, shopkeepers set up small stalls across the monasteries and indulge in games and lotteries altogether making it one of the most wholesome festivals of Ladakh.

When? – Dosmoche Festival is celebrated for two days sometime around mid-February and the dates for it usually vary. In 2023, it will be celebrated on the 28th and 29th of February.

Where? – It is celebrated in Leh, Likir & Diskit Monasteries. The famous Cham dance is performed on the patio of an old chapel right below Leh Palace.

Suggested Read: Foods Of Ladakh – The best of Ladakhi Cuisine

  • Hemis Tsechu
festivals of Ladakh
A large crowd gathers at Hemis Monastery to witness the festival.

Guru Padmasambhava also known as Guru Rinpoche was instrumental in introducing Dharma as the way of life to Tibetan Buddhists. Hemis Tsechu is celebrated to honor his birth anniversary and is considered to e one of the most sacred festivals of Ladakh.

He is known to have banished demons. Symbolic of that victory, Cham Dance is performed with great fervor depicting the war between good and evil. Another major highlight is the unfurling of Thangkas (Buddhist paintings) to the public which attracts many domestic and international tourists and is truly a sight to behold!

When? – It is usually celebrated around the end of June or early July. In 2023, it will be celebrated on the 28th and 29th of June.

Where? – The festival is held at the sprawling courtyard of the biggest monastery in Ladakh, Hemis Gompa which is also one of the Best Places to visit in Ladakh.

  •  Sindhu Darshan Festival
festivals of Ladakh
Prayer Flags waving in the symphony at Shey Manla.

Indus river also known as Sindhu is the source of life in the deserted mountains of Ladakh. It provides the base for civilization and Sindhu Darshan literally translates to ‘Praying to the river Indus.’

Around 50 senior Lamas gather around the bank of the river and offer their prayers to mother nature herself. The ceremony is then followed by a series of Cultural events performed by various artists from all around the country and is one of the most popular festivals of Ladakh.

This 3-day festival is also celebrated to shed light on the cultural diversity of our country. And is a means to promote communal harmony with Sindhu as the symbol of peace.

When?: Sindhu Darshan Festival is celebrated in the month of June on the full moon night of Guru Purnima.

Where? : It is celebrated in Leh on the banks of the River Indus (Sindhu) at Shey Manla. It is about 8 kilometers far from the main city.

Must Watch: Visual Anecdotes from Ladakh

  • Ladakh Harvest Festival
festivals of Ladakh
People are elated to see the processions.

As the name suggests, Ladakh Harvest Festival is a warm welcome to the harvest season and is one of the longest celebrated Festivals Of Ladakh.

This 2 week long celebration starts with a grand procession of troupes through the Leh Market where young boys can be seen enthralling the audience with their enthusiastic drumming, and playful dances, and women dress up in vivid attires and heavy silver jewelry almost stealing away all the attention! Archery and Polo Competitions are also held openly and are extremely exciting to watch, people also indulge in other affairs like games, shopping, and food hopping making it a must-visit for Photographers and travelers from around the world.

When?: It is a celebration of the first harvest and is celebrated between the 1st to 15th of September every year.

Where?: The festival takes off in the main market of Leh and is celebrated all over the town. 

  • Saka Dawa Festival
festivals of Ladakh
Gorgeous Ladakhi Women prepare for Dance.

One of the holiest and most sacred days in Buddhism culture, Saka Dawa commemorates the birth, enlightenment, and parinirvana of Gautam Buddha. On this day ‘Om Mani Padme Hum’ (May peace prevail) is chanted all over the place and no meat or alcohol is consumed.

The celebration starts with a puja offered early in the morning followed by chants and Cham. An erect pole is also placed at Tarpoche and old prayer flags are replaced with new ones.

It is also believed that any good deed carried out during this time gets rewarded with a million times better Karma, to celebrate Saka Dawa is to simply cherish the spirit of Buddhism!

When? :  It is celebrated in the fourth month of the Tibetan Calendar which is the month of June in the Gregorian Calendar. Considered as the holiest Festivals of Ladakh, most significant day of all is the 5th day of Saka Dawa, which is the full moon Day. In 2023, the festival begins on May 20 and ends on June 30.

Where?: It is celebrated in all the monasteries all over Ladakh and large groups gather in Leh’s polo ground to hear speeches on the significance of the Saka Dawa Festival.

Recommended read: Ladakh Travel Tips

To truly enjoy the essence of The Land Of High Passes, we recommend you visit at least one of these festivals of Ladakh during your Backpacking Trip. The very aura in the region when people gather to celebrate these famous festivals will make you fall in love with Ladakh a little bit more.

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Raima Raj

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