Leh: Monks dressed in bright yellows, reds, blues and greens traditional silk outfits, huge black hats, masks and cream Tibetan shoes Friday kick-started the two-day Hemis Festival with their mesmerising performance. Pointing out the unique feature of the celebration, the organiser said that they still use the costumes, jewelleries and props designed in 1750.
Sangyas Shri, in-charge of Hemis Museum, told IANS: “We are using the same clothes since 1750. Even the ornaments and props used for the performance are there since 1750.”
It sounds unbelievable, but he insisted: “We have lot of stock in our storage, so we use them to re-stitch some of the clothes which are extremely tattered. The motive behind preserving these clothes is to preserve our culture and heritage.”
The Hemis Festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava, avatar of Guru Rinpoche. Every year it is celebrated at the Hemis Monastery, about 43 kms away from Leh, and is one of the major tourist attractions in the high-altitude Leh region of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dressed in colourful costumes and equipped with the props, the dancers started the performance at 10 in the morning with a huge crowd of about 12,000 to 15,000 people including Japanese, French, and Italians, as well as Indians, enjoying the show and cheering them.
Preserving the costumes need special care, said Sangyas.
“We take special care of these clothes; they are stored in a wooden box which is only used twice a year. We have a managing committee to take a special care of it,” he added.
Starting 10th day of Tibetan lunar calendar, it is celebrated by Drukpa Buddhist.
Minister of State for Home Affairs Jitendra Singh inaugurated the festival. Congress chief Sonia Gandhi was supposed to come, but she couldn’t make it but sent a message that Singh shared with the people.
The performances have a strong significance, the symbolic figure of all evils, devils and demons which work against the Buddha’s dharma and peace, happiness and welfare of the sentient beings, of has been put to an end through this festival.
Apart from costumes, during the performance props play a very vital role – dancers are seen holding small drums and bells in their hands. With a live background score, monks blow long horns made of brass, trumpets and drums.
It all comes after special one month’s training.
“The dancers follow a specific regime and discipline. They have to get into the character in a month’s time. A performer is allowed to perform for three years and after that he is replaced by someone else. So every three years, the dancers change,” Tsewang Rigzen, the first Chief Abbot of Hemis, told IANS.