Sept 20, 2016: All your questions answered about the Hemis Festival of Ladakh. Here is what it is all about and why you should not miss a chance to be at Ladakh’s largest and the most popular festival. The annual two day Hemis Festival at the Hemis Monastery has become a great tourist attraction.
Ladakh faces harsh months of winter from November to March. As they prepare for their bright days ahead, the world gears up to be a the Hemis with them. The Hemis Jangchub Choling monastery start preparing for celebrating the birth of Lord Padmasambhava, their local savious. The festival is a colourful extravaganza comprising of dance, music and mmasked performances. The otherwise serene , untouched landscape transforms into a vibrant and chaotic environment during this time of the year.
According to the Tibetan legends, this festival originated in the 8th Cebtury. Lord Padmasambhava, known as Guru Rimpoche to the locals is belived to be the savior who banished the demons and spirits.He is said to have introduces Tantric Buddhism to the Ladhakis. He combined the teachings of Buddhism and Tibetan culture to establish a new way of life.
The festival highlight includes dance performances by masked Lamas. The theme of these performances is the victory of good over evil. These performers are dressed in vibrant costumes and bright colored masks. The masks signify different Gods, animals and other characters to depict stories. The dance style includes slow graceful movements with fancy expressions. They also use musicals instruments like the drums, trumpets and cymbals to accompany the dance performance. The main performance depicts the victory over the Ruta demons.
Every 12th year is the Monkey year according to the Tibetan calendar. This festival becomes twofold and the unfurling of the largest Thangkhaof 12 meters from the second floor of the monastery Happened in 2016 after 12 years.The scripture is delicately preserved and is worth seeing.
The Hemis monastery opens its doors after the end of winter. The date is according to the Lunar calendarand hence changes every year. This year it was celebrated on the 15th and 16th of July.
The Hemis monastery lies in a gorge, 45 kms from Leh in Jammu and Kashmir.This quaint setting amidst the greenery is a sight you would not want to miss. The Gompa in Ladakh which houses almost 500 monks is accessible. A perfect place for backpackers, travellers and adventure junkies.
Hardline Buddhist monks in Sri Lanka have celebrated the creation of a new Buddhist entity in Ladakh. It is an optical illusion that Jammu and Kashmir has been neatly divided into Jammu, Kashmir and Ladakh, that is, Hindu, Muslim and Buddhist entities. The projection of Ladakh as purely Buddhist is odd because in the combined population of Kargil and Leh, Muslims are a majority according to the 2011 census.
New Delhi has also been keeping a steady gaze on Sri Lanka where Buddhist, Muslim and Christian factors came into play during the April 21, Easter Sunday massacre. Indian Intelligence had alerted their counterparts in Colombo as early as April 4 that a major act of terror would be executed in the island nation, possibly near Easter. When the bombs were detonated in Colombo’s churches and hotels killing nearly 300 people and injuring 500 more, Indian Intelligence looked very impressive after the event. Then Intelligence agencies from the US, UK, Israel, Australia, India, all descended on Colombo with state of the art technology. Everyone was out to hold Colombo’s hand. A petrified establishment, it was hoped, would fall into the Western lap. Machinations would then follow to steer Sri Lanka away from the Road and Belt Embrace.
Spanish Anthropologist, Joseba Zulaika’s famous dictum is worrisome: “Counter terrorism is terrorism’s best friend”. Hints of terror cells in South India, the cover up in Sri Lanka, the political turnstile in the Maldives makes this Indian Ocean triangle a source of anxiety.
All the more worrisome because the current phase of terrorism is not just Muslim anger, revenge, vendetta. It has been identified as energy to be harnessed as an asset. It all began with the Afghan Mujahideen in the 80s. Just take a look at what some scholarly investigations in Sri Lanka have found.
Sniffer dogs, making a round of the Hilton hotel found nothing but the hotel staff asked the handlers to examine another branch of the hotel. At this new location something mysterious was experienced. The dogs would not stop barking in front of one room. There was some humming and hawing, and excuses by the management as to why the room could not be opened. It was occupied by employees of the US embassy. According to Dr. Michael Roberts of the University of Adelaide, Australia, when the embassy officials ultimately opened the room, Sri Lankan police found two bomb detectors which, the officials explained, were for their own safety. The overawed Sri Lanka police appears not to have pursued the obvious line of inquiry. Sniffer dogs would bark only if the detectors had been in contact with material which went into the manufacture of bombs.
One complicating factor is the divergent foreign policy preferences of the President, a votary of China’s Belt and Road initiative, and Prime Minister Ranil Wickremesinghe who has exerted every muscle to sign the Status of Forces Agreement which would give the US Military a free run of an island. Note the head on conflict. The Prime Minister is keen that SOFA is signed before the Island’s general elections next year.
There are some tell-tale details. I have earlier mentioned a research paper, “Weaponization of Religion” by Darini Rajasingham-Senanayake. According to her, the growing Chinese influence on the island may well have been the target of the Easter attacks.
Not only were hotels targeted which had Chinese affiliations, but the six Chinese who lost their lives were from the South China Institute of Oceanography. Western agencies would not look at this data. They were, quite tellingly, focused only on the clash of civilizations and conflicts across faiths.
Tibet, Ladakh, Bhutan, Sikkim, Mongolia, Myanmar and Sri Lanka, are all bound by Buddhism, though sometimes of distinct Mahayana and Hinayana strands. How many of these would possibly be brought into play in President Donald Trump’s strategy of encircling China?
When Trump entered the White House in 2016, his avowed aim was to upturn everything Barack Obama had ever erected in the arena of foreign affairs, as in other areas. But his demoniacal desire to eradicate Obamaism from its root has run into that constant called American national interest.
The Obama-John Kerry team’s priority became the nuclear deal with Iran, signed in 2015 for a reason: focusing on West Asian affairs on a daily basis was keeping the administration away from other global priorities that required urgent attention – the pivot to Asia, for instance. Despite Israel and Saudi Arabia throwing every monkey wrench at hand into the 5+1 discussions with Iran, the team determinedly concluded the deal with several objectives but one which often goes unnoticed.
Lyndon Johnson’s colourful image was instructive. “It is better to have the camel in the tent, peeing out, than to leave him out peeing in.” Iran was going to be part of West Asian balance of power along with Israel, Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Turkey, Qatar. Washington would then have the time to focus on Asia Pacific.
To be characteristically contrary, Trump walked out of the nuclear deal, made a mess with Europe, North Korea, raised stakes everywhere. But eventually he picked up the thread where Obama had left it: “Pivot to Asia” but only after having soiled much turf enroute. The US support to the protests in Hong Kong, playing up the Taiwan-China differences, shady US behaviour in Sri Lanka, the Economic showdown with Beijing are all part of Trump’s risky, untidy “contain China” movement set by his predecessor. But with Trump you know nothing until you do. Who would have expected him to propose a meeting with President Hassan Rouhani on the margins of the UN General Assembly? Or that he would initiate direct talks with the Houthis in Yemen either with Saudi concurrence or without it, sailing above their heads? Either Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu will be hopping mad at this turn or he will be pleased as punch in case he was in the loop and these leaks are only designed to set up adversaries. Who knows? (IANS)