(Last Updated on : 29/04/2014)
Hemis, 45 km in the Southeast of Leh is visited in large numbers than any other gompa in Ladakh. Every year in the mid July, hundreds of foreigners join the huge local crowds during the festival. The localists wear their finest traditional attires and the foreigners gather to watch the colorful two day peagant. The rambling and atmospheric seventeenth century monastery can be disappointedly quiet.
The main entrance opens on the large rectangular courtyard where the festival chaam dances are performed accompanied by cymbal crashes, drum rolls and periodic blasts from the temple trumpets, the culmination of the event. On the second day is a frenzied dismemberment of a dummy, symbolizing the destruction of the human ego, and thus the triumph of Buddhism over ignorance and evil. Once every twelve years, the Hemis festival also hosts the ritual unrolling of a giant Thangka. The gompa's prize possession, which covers the entire facade of the building, it was embroidered by women whose hands are now honored as holy relics. Decorated with pearls and precious stones, it was last displayed in 2004.
Accommodation in Hemis
By car, Hemis is an easy day-trip from Leh. Bus services are frequent only during the festival and at other times, a single daily service leaves Leh at 9.30am and returns at noon, leaving hardly enough time to poke your head inside the temple chambers. Another bus leaves Leh at 4pm but stays the night at Hemis, returning the next morning at 7am. An overnight stay means you can attend the 7am puja, although accommodation in Hemis is limited. You can camp nearby the Chamoling village for free or at the Hemis Restaurant, located below the gompa and directed by young carrom-playing monks. Ask at either the Hemis Restaurant or the Parachute Restaurant in Chamoling, both these restaurants serve simple food.