Hemis in the extreme Ladakhi landscape hosts the region’s largest monastery, Hemis Gompa. This monastery also hosts a two day annual masked dance celebrations and thangka unveiling at the height of the summer. Located 45 km southeast of Leh, the capital of Ladakh, this is one of the most visited monasteries / gompas in the region. Most pilgrims and tourists make it a point to visit this craggy monastery in Ladakh. Also known as the solitary site for the compassionate person, Chang-Chub-Sam-Ling in Ladakhi language, this Gompa belongs to the Drokpa order and unusually inhabits a majority of women inhabitants. The monastery also holds superb murals and thangkas.
In the mid-July, this region attracts hundreds of foreigners to the local two-day celebration based on mask chaam dance along with cymbal crashes, drum rolls and periodic blow of temple trumpets. On the second day of this festival, a dummy is dissected, symbolizing the destruction of the human ego, and the triumph of Buddhism over ignorance and evil.
Once every 12 years, the Hemis festival also hosts the unveiling of a giant three storey thangka, the monastery’s greatest treasure studded with pearls and semi precious stones. The next Thangka unveiling ceremony is scheduled in 2016.
Hemis Gompa is 45 km south of Leh, the capital of Ladakh, and on the southern bank of Indus River.
The Hemis Gompa is a part of the region under the Hemis National Park. This facet itself opens up arena to experience the heavenly wildlife and natural beauty. The monastery is beautifully carved and decorated in Tibetan style. Its huge courtyard serves as the backdrop for Hemis festival celebration during the annual birth anniversary festival of Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is a must see for every visitor who wants to explore a new dimension of life in Ladakh.
This 350 years old monastery is also considered one of the wealthiest monasteries in Ladakh. It is specially ornamented on the occasion of the Tsechu festival in the Tibetan lunar season during winters. The colourful and hand woven dresses, filled up markets with antique objects make it a shopping worthy festival.
Hemis National Park –
This is a high altitude National Park in eastern Ladakh and the only one of a kind in the northern Himalayas. Spread over 600 sq. km, Hemis National Park is full of vivid wildlife and serves as a home to many rare birds and animals like snow leopard, Tibetan antelope, ibex, etc. the unique landscape here also features the heavenly Himalayan bounties featuring dry forests, birch and fir, alpine grasslands, and scrublands.
How to reach
Srinagar is the nearest airport, connected to all major national cities. Leh airport can also be of used as it has some direct flights from Delhi; however, it depends on clouds whether the aircraft will land on time.
The nearest train stoppage is Jammu, but train is not a very good option when the final destination is Hemis visit Hemis Gompa.
Road journey in Ladakh is itself an exciting opportunity. One can enter from the Himachal side, from Manali via Keylong, or otherwise, from the Kashmir side, from Srinagar via Kargil.