Hemis Festival, Ladakh
Festive Celebrations on the Heavenly Lands
Festivals of Jammu and Kashmir prove to be the real reflection of the state to the outside world. The state perfectly epitomizes the phrase 'unity in diversity'. The state of J&K has three major regions, Jammu that has majority Hindu population, Kashmir that is dominated by Muslims and Ladakh, a pure Buddhist area. The fairs and festivals of the state bring out the colorful way of living that prevails in the state and the brotherhood that is there among different communities. Every festival here is celebrated by people of all religion together which is a welcome to see in a world torn apart by wars and rifts. The celebration and enthusiasm that permeates the Jammu and Kashmir atmosphere during these festivals is something that can be felt nowhere else on earth.
The festival is celebrated on the 13th of April every year. This is a prominent Sikh festival but since the population of Sikhs is quite large in parts of Jammu and Kashmir as well, you will see the enthusiastic celebrations of this festival. It is to celebrate the starting of harvesting season in Northern India. The day also witnesses the start of many fairs, some are even week long. Do visit these fairs as they prove to be great place for shopping for local and traditional items. The day is also famous as the birthday of the tenth Sikh Guru, Guru Gobind Singh.
Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha
Eid-ul-Fitr and Eid-ul-Azha are the most famous Muslim festivals in the state of Jammu and Kashmir. If you have to experience the real fun and celebrations of Id, you have to be in Kashmir where the dominant population is of Muslims. Although, the festival is also celebrated in part of Jammu as well. Eid-ul-Fitr marks the end of fasting month of Ramadan. During this day, instead of five-time namaz, people have to offer namaz six times. The day is very auspicious for all Muslims, they wear new clothes and attend many grand feasts. Eid-ul-Azha is equally important festival, which is more prominent for the Qurbani (sacrifice). People sacrifice goats, sheep and some even Camels.
Hemis Festival is the most important festival in Ladakh region. The festival is to commemorate the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava. The festival is organized in the huge courtyard of the largest monastery in Ladakh. The festival is celebrated on the 9th, 10th and 11th day of 5th month according to the Tibetan calendar. It is also believed to be the days when Guru Padmasambhava fought with demons and defeated them. To portray this, Lamas and lay persons dress themselves in traditional clothes and century old masks, and perform a ritual dance depicting the victory of good over evil. Seeing the dance performance in itself is mesmerizing, and the music from drums and long horns only give you an extra reason to get spell bound.
In many parts of India, this festival is also called Makar Sakranti. The festival is the celebration of onset of spring and is celebrated on 13th of January every year. The celebrations start in the darkness of night around a bonfire. People gather around it, sing and dance and throw sweets and puffed rice into the fire. During the festival, people take a bath in the many holy water bodies that purify the land of Jammu and Kashmir. The celebrations are entirely different in rural areas where it is celebrated with much more enthusiasm. Here, young kids go to newly wed couples and new parents and ask for gifts. Other attractive feature of this festival is the dance by young boys called Chajja dance.
These festivals are the perfect place where you can see people of all religion confluence under one roof. The festival time are also the best time for shopping in Jammu and Kashmir as many fairs start during this time displaying the ethnic jewelry, local handicrafts, hand woven carpets and much more. In these fairs, buy for best traditional items and experience the rich Kashmiri culture prevailing over the entire region.