Destinations - India Heritage Ladakh

Lamayuru Festival, Ladakh | Colourful and Divine!

Written by Poorna & Brinda

Lamayuru festival or Yuru Kabgyat festival in Lamayuru monastery is an important religious festival in Ladakh. Along with famous Hemis festival, the Lamayuru festival is a colourful and divine experience.

We were in Ladakh in June this year. Brinda had finished her voluntary teaching assignments in Ladakh and we had taken out some time to go around the beautiful Ladakh.

We were staying in our favourite place Raku guest House in Leh.

Angchik, the genial host of Raku asked us while sipping the evening tea.

“What is your plan for tomorrow”

“Nothing definite” Poorna answered.

“Why don’t you go to Lamayuru tomorrow. There is a lovely festival for next two days”

“Is it similar to Hemis festival?” asks Poorna

“Yes” pat comes reply from Angschik.

We jump at the idea! Lamayuru festival or Yuru Kabgyat Festival is one of the important festivals in Buddhist calendar.

“We would love to go there” We tell him.

We Google for the details of the festival and get this information

  • Significance of Yuru Kabgyat or Lamayuru Festival
    • The Yuru Kabgyat Festival is somehow dedicated to the Yama and Padmasambhava who are the meticulously delineated in the dance drama. Yama is considered to be the Lord of Death and Padmasambhava as the Second Buddha. He is also revered as the protector of the creatures and stallions and is also regarded as the Lord of Wealth.Highlights of the Yuru Kabgyat Festival
    • The Yuru Kabgyat Festival is celebrated at the pre-historic Lamayuru monastery in Ladakh, thereby increasing its cultural significance.
    • Sounds from the gigantic pipe reverberate many a times in the monastery during the entire festival.
    • Prayer wheels are also a major highlight of the Yuru Kabgyat Festival.
    • The festival offers excellent opportunities to get insights about the Buddhism and understand the teachings of Buddha.
    • Monks from far and near perform the masked dances in order to please the deities who in return keep the evil spirits and disasters at bay.
  • Celebrations of the Yuru Kabgyat Festival
    • Lamas from various countries come here specifically for the event and dress up accordingly to raise the fun quotient.
    • The breathtaking festival is incomplete without the ‘Chams’. In Cham masked dance, monks dance in circular motions, adorned with huge masks.
    • The dance movements compliment the sounds of cymbals, drums and long pipes. At the end of the festival, sacrificial offerings are made and some sacred rituals are performed.

The plan is set. To leave in the morning and reach Lamayuru around lunch and spend few hours there and return back. The drive to Lamayuru would take around three hours.

A cup of lemon and honey black tea start the day early in the morning. Sun rises early in Ladakh and it is bright and sunny as we sit in the car. It is 6 AM. We know the drive will be spectacular having driven on this road twice earlier.

Crossing Spituk monastery and the confluence of Indus and Zanskar, we drive through the Nimmu cantonment area. Soon, we leave behind the barbed wire fences and army colours as we enter the small town of Basgo which is known for its monastery with fantastic murals.

Indus continues to give as company as we break for breakfast on the highway. Standard breakfast of Parathas washed with milky, sweet masala chai, we are ready to go.

The journey in Ladakh is to be told in pictures and we will do so here as well. As they say, a picture is more than thousand words! Please click on the pictures to see them in larger size.

Driving along Indus! In fact we had given details about the photogenic drive along Indus while driving to Batalik in this post – http://traveltwosome.com/ladakh-drive-along-indus-river-a-photo-blog/

Once we cross Khalsi, we leave Indus and we are in the lovely rugged mountain territory which are huge and colourful!

Lamayuru festival

Just before Lamayuru, you will see this spectacular moonscape!! 

Lamayuru festival

Lamayuru festival

The Lamayuru town is very picturesque with fields of Barley and mustard contrasting with the colours of mountains!

Lamayuru festival

Lamayuru festival

We reach Lamayuru by 12 Noon. We could see huge crowd from the number of cars which are parked on the road. We get down and start climbing to the monastery. On either side of the road, stalls are selling riffraff. The crowd mainly are Ladakhis with a sprinkle of foreigners who have come to experience the festival. We could see very few Indians from main land.

We reach the monastery and check out the place where the festival is being celebrated. We are directed to go to the large quadrangle and on reaching there we find nothing. Poorna enquires on the festival activities. “It will start after lunch around 2 PM sir” says a young monk.

We sit in the viewers gallery. We see many Ladakhis already there since morning. They have come from villages and are having lunch. We talk to them and they offer the local delicacies made of barley. The rotis look similar to the jowar rotis we have in North Karnataka and tasty. The drink is again made of barley. We also go and get some momos from the restaurant nearby.

Lunch done, we are now ready for the festivities.

We walk around and peep into the green room where the monks are preparing for the festival. Monks don the various robes and masks and take part in the festivities.

It is 2 PM and we can see the monks who are part of music ensemble taking their seat. They sound the traditional pipes and drums. We could see actors moving out of the green room into the quadrangle.

The festivities of Lamayuru festival starts!

The main seat for senior lama

Lamayuru festival

Villagers having lunch and waiting for the festivities to begin. We join them!

Lamayuru festival

Poorna meets this old man and start chatting with him. He must be in his eighties and fit. He has travelled from his village which was around 30 KMs from Lamayuru. He speaks well. He was a sort of mini zamindar and his grandson is studying in Bangalore!

The Child monks having fun before the start of the programme

Engaged in a serious conversation!

At the same time, the artists are getting ready. The artists are none other than monks from the monastery.

The music ensemble settle down.

The festivities start to the sounds of drums and pipes. The first ones to come are monks with the long holy pipe in hand. The go around the quadrangle blowing the it.

Behind them series of gods and goddesses appear through this entrance hole. They slowly start dancing to the tunes of the music and go around in circles. Unfortunately, there was no one to tell us what kind of dance it is and what is the significance of each one of these gods and goddesses.

Lamayuru festival

We spend two hours in Lamayuru enjoying this unique Lamayuru festival. It is colourful and lovely. Please check out a short video of the colourful dance here.

https://youtu.be/2PyYuwxjYUY

Travel Tips

  1. The Lamayuru festival happens in the month of June.
  2. If you are driving from Srinagar, it makes sense to stay in Lamayuru and experience the festival and then drive to Leh.
  3. If you are driving from Leh, it will be a day trip.
  4. Also visit the famous Lamayuru monastery.
  5. On the way to Lamayuru, don’t miss the geological marvel of moonscape patterns just before the town if you are driving from Leh.
  6. There are few restaurants which serve food in Lamayuru. During the festival the town will be crowded.
  7. If you have time, take a detour to visit the lovely monastery at Alchi.
  8. The festivities are generally conducted from 9 AM to 1 PM and from 2PM onwards. Go early to get a vantage point.

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About the author

Poorna & Brinda

We are Brinda and Poorna from Bengaluru, the “Silicon city” or “Garden city” of India.

We travel together. We caught the travel bug 20 years back. On our honey moon, we traveled over the sea, in the train, by bus and in an aircraft! Our adventures probably started in that year. It continues, ever since.

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