Naropa Festival Ladakh – The Himalayan Maha Kumbh
Ladakh is a land of cultures imbibed into one. With the mighty Himalayas all around, this land of high passes has been a favorite destination for travelers across the globe. Apart from the picturesque landscapes and the marvelous mountains, this land of the Lama is also known for its cultural heritage and the famous Naropa Festival. When we got the invitation to attend the Naropa Festival 2018 in Ladakh, we were in for an extraordinary adventure trip which would be an experience of the Buddhism from a closer perspective. Although we had been to Ladakh around 3 years back but back then things were completely different. We were a recently married couple who were out to explore Ladakh as their first big trip post marriage. This time things were different as we were there on a media invite by the Naropa Committee who were organizing the Naropa Festival Ladakh. The festival was held from 16th September to the 21st with many renowned artists from Bollywood and other fields performing and gracing the occasion every day.
Traveling to Ladakh from Delhi
We started our journey to Ladakh on 15th of September early in the morning. After reaching Leh in a one hour flight from Delhi we spent the entire day in our hotels acclimatizing to the change in atmosphere. Acclimatization is extremely important if you are flying directly from Delhi or the plain to Leh directly because the oxygen level at such high altitudes is comparatively low and the air pressure is also very high. It is advised to spend the first day of the trip at ease in order to combat any Acute Mountain Sickness issue which results due to a sudden change in air pressure and loss of oxygen at very high altitudes.
Leh City, Locals and Market:
Leh as a city is very appealing. A small town right in the middle of the mountains with clean streets is what marks its significance. The evening was spent in the local market of Leh city where we went for some street shopping too. The market of Leh city is very lively as you will find very colorful shops buzzing with a crowd. The crowd mostly consists of travelers and locals who are busy filling their shopping bags. It is always a pleasure to meet and interact the locals of Leh city as they are extremely sweet people to talk. With smiling faces and simplicity in nature, the locals here are mostly very helpful and genuine souls.
Naropa Festival Ladakh – History and more
Naropa Festival Ladakh is celebrated every year in remembrance of the Buddhist philosopher and teacher Naropa. Naropa was a scholar at the Nalanda University who believed in the teachings of Lord Buddha. Naropa met his Guru Tilopa when he was in Kashmir and he was put to 12 hardship tests. On completing those tests he attained enlightenment. He was given 6 bone relics by a Dakini which he passed to his lineage. The 6 bone relics were crown, earrings, necklace, bracelet, seralkha and apron. Every year one of the 6 bone relics are put to display for the public and this year it was the crown. The celebration for Naropa Festival Ladakh becomes grand every 12th year, the next one being 2028. The present-day head of the Drukpa lineage, His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa puts on all the 6 bone relics every 12th year at the Naropa Festival.
Day 1 at Naropa Festival:
The festival this year witnessed a Ladakhi music and art performances by the locals at the newly constructed Naropa Stupa near the Hemis Monastery. The inaugural day marked the dance performances of kids from Druke White Lotus School also known as Rancho’s School from the famous movie 3 idiots. There was a dance performance by the students of the Naropa Fellowship Programme. These colorful performances along with the local food at the stalls served some of the local delicacies to be enjoyed.
The evening at the inaugural day of the Naropa Festival Ladakh marked the performances by the Bollywood artistes like Kailash Kher and others becoming one of the most enjoyable celebrations. All the other days had Bollywood artistes like Akriti Kakkar and Papon performing in the evening. The closing day of the Naropa Festival had Sonu Nigam’s performance as the highlight of the day. The crowd literally gathered from all corners of the city and enjoyed the show to the fullest.
Post the inaugural day we started our trip to explore the neighboring areas of Leh. This included a visit to Pangong Tso, Nubra, Khardungla, Turtuk and RD0. A detailed blog post on the entire journey will be coming up soon.
Entry of Naropa Festival Ladakh 2018 to Guinness Book of World Records:
The Naropa Festival this year marked its entry into the Guinness Book of World Records as it witnessed the Worlds Largest Ladakhi Dance Performance when 299 Ladakhi ladies performed the famous dance of Shondol on the closing day of the festival. Quite a sight and a rare feat!
Naropa Fellowship Ladakh
Naropa Fellowship is a one-year residential programme commencing its first batch from September this year. The programme is focussed on shaping the future of the Himalayas with students working towards the betterment of Leh and other Himalayan regions. The programme also focuses on budding entrepreneurship, enhancing effective communication and strengthening networking amongst local and international peers along with giving it back to the society. The programme has been launched this year and will start with 50 students in a batch. The location of the Naropa Fellowship will be Hemis, a town located 40kms off the Leh airport.
The Naropa Festival 2018 lasted for 5 days with a celebration of religion, humanity, culture, music and arts. It was an amazing experience to be at this festival, connect with the locals and know more about the Naropa Festival. For 5 days, Leh became a center of the celebration of one of the biggest religion in the world, Buddhism.