Naropa Festival, 2016 calling you in Ladakh-"The Kumbh Mela of Himalayas"

Naropa Festival, 16-22 September, Hemis Monastry, Ladakh- Once every 12 years, Celebrating 1000 years
Come fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame.”–William Butler Yeats

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Naropa Festival

Have you seen Bollywood movie “Jab we Met” starring 2 leading stars:Shahid Kapoor as Aditya Kashyap (depressed businessman with aimless life) and Kareena Kapoor as Geet (owner of vivacious personality, loaded with spark). This is my all time favorite movie not just because of her bubbly character that could persuade anyone to live life fullest in conflicting situations but this movie made me fall in love innumerable times with mountains . Story fabricated on the substructure of aesthetic sceneries of Himalayas and how could I forget the mesmerized song “Yeh Ishq Haye” that elegantly choreographed on those alluring Ladhakhi girls.
And now as we flicked the topic of Ladakh then let’s take it further. Considering the fact, with higher social media involvement and expanding obsession of travel among common masses number of destinations in the country are able to preserve their elevated rank in the travel chart. Ladakh is one of them, especially after 3 Idiots” as you already apprehend that today’s generation is highly influenced by movies. Apart from barren cold desert, thin oxygen layer, mysteriously carved monasteries with historically enriched past, chanting red robed monks, divine early morning prayers, curvy roads and broad dry endless series of mountains; Ladakh region is occupied by enlightened culture diversity, peaceful spirituality, vibrant nature’s beauty, versatile inhabitants and plenty of hospitality. It is one of the most pristine region in the world and had witnessed great masters, seekers, dynasties, meditators and explorers. Ladakh is the guardian to the cosmic Himalayas, to the Glaciers that provide drinking water supply to India, Pakistan, China where inattentive attitude of Ladakhi’s can lead massive disaster to the boundaries.
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His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche

These are just the geographical attributes that always tempts and entreats your itching desire to traverse the region as local but what if, you get something to intensify this desire and that is “Naropa Festival” known as “The Kumbh Mela of Himalayas”  to be held from 16-22 September, 2016. It’s a once in a 12 year opportunity to be a part of grand spiritual celebration, even I didn’t aware about the festival earlier. But got acquainted with all the relevant details when I got the chance to attend a media conference that was addressed by His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, one of the regents of Drupka order. Where he informed us about the dates of a month-long festival that had been announced at recently in annual summer festival at Hemis Monastry. This year Naropa festival commemorates the 1000 birth anniversary of Naropa that’s enough to make it remarkable.
Here is the brief narrative associated with the colorful spiritual carnival in lap of the mountains:
-This year half a million people from across the globe are expected to attend the festival in Hemis Monastary  which is the biggest monastery of Ladakh, located 40 kms from Leh. In year 1980, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi attended a part of the festival where approx. 50,000 devotees assembled. In 1992-80k and in 2004- 135k people participated in the festival. So. the numbers are kept on expanding.
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Silk embroidered Brocade- Pic Credit Naropa Festival Page

-This festival includes the ceremonial unfurling of Silk embroidered brocade, a devotional art piece which is only displayed to public audiences during the Naropa festivities. Drukpa Lineage entwined Ladakhi region, almost 80% Ladakh citizen believe in Drukpa order of Buddhism.
-Naropa festival is the world’s largest prominent Buddhism festival that held in once every 12 years, in the Monkey year that includes various cultural performances and talk shows by famed Himalayan artists and Bollywood celebrities. Including feature of an elaborative ceremony where His Holiness The Gyalwang Drukpa– spiritual head of the Drukpa Order who is revered as Naropa’s reincarnation, shall display the Six Bone Ornaments that are the physical legacy of Saint Naropa– left behind after his liberation and from it is believed as the reason of grant spiritual liberation upon sight.
-Naropa is the 11th century patron saint of Drukpa order whose life heralded the beginning of a rich tradition in Buddhist philosophy. Saint Naropa resided in Ladakh, where he mastered the “Six Yogas of Naropa.” also known as Six Dharmas of Naropa, these are now meditational pillars of Vajrayana Buddhism, and are fundamental to nearly every school and lineage of the greater Himalayas.
Alongside notifying schedule of the festivities His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche informed us about various social welfare programs on which foundation is working.
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Live to Rescue

  • Live to rescueAs an animal lover I appreciated the thoughtful concept of this initiative. An animal care and management center that spread over 40 acre land in Nang, Ladakh is working on welfare and population control of stray animals. They promote sterilization, build animal care centers and construct clinics for animals. Through such dedication they helped 2000 stray animals yet.
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Matter of Equality,  Drukpa Nuns -Pic credit Naropa festival Page
  • Eco Pad Yatra– To promote the message of Eco Tourism, monks measured domestic and international borders to transport the message of environmental conservation, any one can volunteer for such a great cause. Add on, if you are more focused on Cycle Yatra that would be an option too, currently His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa particpating  with other 500 nuns in 2 months Eco Cycle yatra initiated in Kathmandu on July,3 following route Kathmandu-Uttrakhand-Himachal-Jammu
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Eco Cycle Yatra- Pic credit Naropa festival
  • Druk Padma Karpo School– The only green school in Himalayas and known as Rancho’s School. As education is the basic key of development, by keeping this valuable thing in mind foundation is working with school, colleges to provide holistic education. In efforts of providing international level learning facilities to the local students of Ladakh to reduces up unnecessarily migration in the seek of competitive standards of education.

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Festivities with full of liveliness

Below are the key highlights of Naropa 2016 that you don’t want to miss:

16th September 2016
  • His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa dons the Six Ornaments of Naropa – which are said to provide ‘liberation on sight’ to all those who witness it
  • A Fashion Parade showcasing the unique culture and tradition of Ladakh and the fusion with modern world
  • Performance by renowned Bollywood SingerKK
17th September  2016
  • Public Display of Six Bone Ornaments
  • Performances by Bollywood music director & producer Vishal &Shekhar
18th September 2016
  • Rare opportunity to learn about the teachings of the Lineage disseminated by Drukpa Masters themselves
  • Performances by regional celebrities from Ladakh and Kashmir
  • Performances by Bollywood Choreographer Terence Lewis & his troupes.
19th September 2016
  • Unfurling of Silk Thangka of Buddha Amitabha – the largest silk brocade in the Himalayas  
  • Traditional archery competition
  • Musical concert with Music Director Trio Shankar, Ehsaan Loy
20th September 2016
  • 50 stanzas on Guru Devotion by His Holiness the 12thGyalwang Drukpa  
  • Competitions to engage with Ladakhi youth
  • Performances by Rahul Kharbanda, Sivamani and Deepak Pandit& Friends
21st September 2016
  • Performance by Shakti Mohan (winner, Dance India Dance) with local students
  • A special tribute Performance by Bollywood Singer Neeti Mohan to Saint Naropa.
22nd September 2016
  • Closing ceremony with 1 lakh Ganachakra offering
  • A grand concert in honour of Saint Naropa by celebrity singer Shreya Ghoshal 

As I’ve never got the chance to admire and explore the nature’s beauty settled in Ladakh but definitely would like to participate in this occasional festival.
PS: Some pictures are taken from Naropa Facebook Page and for any further details and assistance you can reach to Naropa web Page.
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  1. This looks like one of the most interesting & diverse Indian Festivals I’ve seen. I went to India 2 years ago but the roads to Ladakh were closed so it’s definitely on my list of places to return to. Thanks for the heads up

  2. Wow it looks like a huge numner of people will be there! It should really be an interesting festival, especially for those (like me) interested in cultures from all over the world

  3. This is the first time I am hearing about this unique festival.Thank you for sharing this maybe in the next 12 years I will get there to experience this with so many people.

  4. That looks like such an amazing experience. I love the animal rescue and that in other places, animals are sacred in a way.

  5. Ladakh is such an amazing location with stunning landscape and to be able to witness local festivals so colorful and vibrant is definitely a remarkable experience. Beautiful captures!

  6. What a big festival and thoroughly informative guide. As the Naropa festival is held once every twelve years I can understand why it’s such a big deal when it does come about. 🙂

  7. I have heard of the Naropa festival but never have I come across so much detail. Well captured. Did not know about the Ecopad yatra. Now that is quite interesting and inspiring. Thanks for sharing it all.

  8. This looks like a great festival with so many performances. I would love to hear Shreya , and SEL But unfortunately im not in India at that time. I love your photographs as well especially the first one. Its so colourful .

  9. I adore this blogging world because I am constantly learning! It seems like very interesting festival and it would we great to visit once.

  10. It sounds like a great festival with lots of interesting activities. I have been to India before and I know how colorful festivals are, and this one must be really special if it occurs only once ever 12 years. I think the display is amazing, the silk brocade must be really impressive being so big!

  11. I wish we celebrated in such style here in Essex. Our public holidays just pass like any ordinary day! I love the look of that eco bike ride, must be quite a sight.

  12. Breathtaking! I have wanted to visit Ladakh ever since I got to visit with the Dalai Lama in Dharamsala, his current home and the capital of the banished Tibetan people. Ladakh looks incredible and though I can’t get there this September, I will try again in 12 years for the next Naropa Festival! Here are the thoughts I had on that connected experience, now I just need the other side, but thank you for providing such deep insights!

  13. I would like to see this festival myself. So many people are there! And the colors in the clothes are so beautiful. I hope you get a chance to go.

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