Nadu, Andhra Pradesh
Uttar Pradesh, Himachal
Pradesh in North India, Assam, Bengal,
Sikkim in East India
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Ladakh celebrates winter festival of 'Dosmoche'
by Jigmet Vangchuk
Hundreds of Buddhist followers converged here to witness the spectacular mask
dances performed by Buddhist monks on the occasion of the winter festival of "Dosmoche".
The hills surrounding the courtyard of the main monastery of Leh, situated below
the palace gates, came alive with activity as people dotted the slopes for the
two-day annual festival, which recently concluded. Buddhists believe the annual
ritual could ward off evil spirits and natural calamities. During the festival,
the monks and the followers the cold desert region come together to chant away
evil spirits. The rhythmic beats of the drum accompanying the high drawl of the
trumpet like instruments called 'gyaling' with the occasional clashes of the cymbals
resonated off the rocky bare slopes as monks adorned in multi-hued robes and vivid
masks representing wrathful forms of various deities considered the manifestations
of Buddha himself, danced to the beats with gay abandon to ward off evil and welcome
universal peace and happiness. An ancient tradition, the festival was started
by the Kings of Ladakh and used to be sponsored by the royal Namgyal family of
Ladakh whose palace still stands as an imposing backdrop and is today celebrated
by the monks of various monasteries in turns every year. The festival was started
during the reign of King Lhachen Gongdup (1295-1320) who fought two battles with
Nyungti (Kullu of Himachal Pradesh) to subdue the destructive forces of the battles.
"I have been staying in Leh for the past 30-35 years. I have been seeing this
fair since then. This has been going on since the time the King of Ladakh ruled,"
said Tenzing Norphel, a resident. The main ritual of the festival is the burning
of a colourful structure, basically made of thread. This ritual is accompanied
by another minor ritual and mask dances in the courtyard. Monks of various monasteries
alternately perform these dances. This year the monks of the Hemis monastery performed
the spectacular mask dances. Though Ladakh has a host of festivals sprinkled around
the year, "Dosmoche" is the only festival celebrated by all the monasteries. The
two-day festival is also a huge draw for visitors to the area, who alongwith the
locals celebrate it with much devotion and excitement.
-Feb 25, 2009