Commemorating once in a dozen years celebration of spirituality & diversity- Naropa Festival,2016

“Short stories are tiny windows into other worlds and other minds and dreams. They are journeys you can make to the far side of the universe and still be back in time for dinner.” — Neil Gaiman.

Dipped in bright colors and festivities -Naro Palace 

At the moment when I participated in one of the random Delhi based event in the month of August, organised for the media for the purpose of promotion of upcoming Ladakh’s Naropa Festival, I never gave a thought of that I would be one of the blessed participants among other three hundred thousands devotees who were destined to engaged in one of the largest Buddhist festival of Himalayas. Means it was not just a routined usual motorbike trip of Leh with friends but far more than that, that too in my first go to Ladakh; isn’t it sounds amazing??  I would have never imagined that someday I take you on one of the majestic spiritual ride or illustrates you a short story in the comfort of your home that left me exhilarated in divine joy. The experience that enriched one portion of my life with once in a lifetime utter opportunity that nature gifted me to avail – i.e. in a form of Naropa Festival, 2016 also known as “Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas” introductory details for which I already blogged earlier.
A Ladakhi devotee in traditional attire

The celebration held in Leh after 12 years, it was the fourth edition of the festival coincided with 1000th birth anniversary of Saint Naropa that marked the level of heights in auspiciousness. What to recount and what not to, mere words can’t convince honesty to plethora of inner sentiments those are still swinging in my mind while recalling first day of the week long cultural event.
Progressing of rituals at Naro Palace

We (bloggers & media participants) started our day early on 16th, September as the full day was supposed to pack with series of opening ceremony events. After spending first sleep deprived night I left our attractive homestay around 6 o’clock in the morning to the venue which was situated 40kms far from Leh. An hour journey while sighting immature saffron colored sun that was blooming behind those tall barren mountains of Ladakh-also known as “Land of Lamas or Land of High passes” would expected to be happen as a tremendous start of the day. By drowsy streets of the city, inaudible view of the Rancho school of 3 idiots/ Druk Padma Karpo School/ Druk White Lotus School (school was observing holiday due to festival) on the way, from the sea of gliding heavy traffic towards the venue and after an initial glimpse of the foothills of the Hemis Monastry I could imagine the splendor of the enthusiasm all around. After some wait in traffic we were about to reach within 10 mins by leaving Indus river behind after crossing small erected bridge over it.
Crossing by Indus River

While standing on the ground in front of Naro Palace that was dusted with profound variations of bright limitless colors and rolling white clouds, those were wandering in the vast spread rich blue sky over the gathering of tens of thousands of head counts, I was striving to absorb the aura of the place. Not only I wanted to hold the moment that I knew wouldn’t gonna persistent after few days but still attempted to sense the energetic pulse with my closed eyes so that I would memorize this spiritual and full of life moment as a treasure that I didn’t want to slip out of my hands. But then who got success to prison the time ever in the history of mankind, same happened to me time had just slipped from my hands and after one month I’m penning down my inestimable recollection of time.
In the mid of prayers and chants before doming of “Six bone Ornaments”

The crowd that could easily be bifurcated partly as monks who were covered in maroon robes and other half as devotees wrapped in traditional ethnic “Gonchas”  were kept on coming from divergent corners of the world. Families of locals and other visitors were managing to settle under scorching sun with colorful umbrellas and their local food as it was a whole day task. And then the time approached when HH Gwalwang Drukpa reached the Naro Palace after leading a cavalcade on foot from Hemis Monastry which was 3 kms away. All eyes centered the stage for the most awaited moment- opening of the week long festival. Can you imagine the energetic vibes when the air got filled with repetitive chants and prayers, rhythm and beats generated by hundred of drums and trumpets and other musical instruments for a welcome of  HH Gwalwang Drukpa who recently came back couple of days before the fest. from his 2 months cycle expedition with other 200 ‘Kung Fu’ nuns, from all the tiring way of Kathmandu to Ladakh.
Kun Fu Nuns waiting for procession

As reincarnation of Naropa he is attaining plethora of responsibilities of a good leader not by favoring any religion but by working as an environmentalist, by promoting gender equality, education, animal welfare and for crucial efforts he made towards world’s hygiene. On contradictory to any other spiritual leader that I’ve seen yet he believes in action. After sitting on the golden leaf throne of the Naro Palace he domed the “Six Bone Ornaments” -a predominant fragment of the ceremony while reciting holy mantras and prayers. Soon crowd started chanting deep down with emotions which I was not able to grasp due to language barrier. These ornaments includes crown (made from thousands of hairs of dakinis), earrings, necklace, seralkha, bangles and ankle had been kept for public access.
Fusion of some traditional and western music

Meanwhile (after spending few hours) I spotted couple of facts:
-Foreigners who chose Buddhism were patently narrating prayers, I was told its a compulsion for any upcoming monk to learn Tibetan before his/her further learning in any of the monasteries. -I could differentiated bunches of monks by colors of their robes, not only maroon but non identical shiny yellow, dark faded blue, orange that shows their association with different monasteries. -Small kids (monks) who were sitting in front rows had been individually assigned to separate gurus/lamas. If I’m wrong then please excuse my observation.
Younger kids/monks stole some moments for their fun. Kids are kids, any region any religion.

A monk dressed in striking yellow

Till the time sun was on our head and fatigueness started ruling me but I had to wait cause the Governor of Jammu and Kashmir, NN Vohra held the stage and was addressing the audience. Separate tents were aligned for lunch as per the convenience to sponsors, VVIPs, VIP and media. So to shut down my inner hunger voice for. food I had to miss few stage performances and then soon I joined press conference with Michelle Yeoh- A Chinese-Malaysian actress  who is also connected to Live to Love program, her every response to media with poise and humor represented her’s down to earth personality.
Michelle Yeoh answering questions of press media

Amazing synchronization of artists 

What’s next?? After her interview session it was time for some entertainment for which I was waiting for like a kid, time for some cultural music and dance and that too in tons of colors. Artists from Nepal, Bhutan, Himachal Pradesh, Ladakh performed with great joy and enthusiasm, not only this, Kung Fu Nuns and students of Rancho School also performed their skills. Those melodious music and silky moves of dances by performers were whisking with the energetic moods of audience and boosting up the background of the mountains. First time in my life, been a media person I took ample of pictures and enjoyed every bit of joyous moments which I spent close to stage and the performers.

Glimpse of Dragon Dance

By the evening, a long day filled with countless spiritual and divine affairs left us exhausted so we bloggers decided to declare it a day with a promise to attend night performances of Bollywood artists on another day. As I already told you words would not do the justice with the sequence of thoughts and memories still pending in my mind for the day. So by putting a pause here I’ll trace down the outstanding happenings of our fourth day in my next blog.
PS: I was in Ladakh as a part of media group invited to attend the Naropa festival,2016.
My Media entry card

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  1. You have amazing skills as a photographer! The pictures are incredibly beautiful and add such a deep insight to the whole article. It’s really an inviting read. Your experience in the Himalayas is something I am sure you’ll treasure for a very long time. Incredible article, thanks for sharing

  2. Sounds like a truly epic and event-packed festival! ‘Kung Fu Nuns’…now there’s a sentence I never thought I’d read or write, but they looks pretty cool I must say. Great that you got to meet Michelle Yeoh, and even better that you’ve opened this post with a Neil Gaiman quote!

  3. The Naropa Festival must me so precious as it is celebrated once in a dozen years. It must have been full of emotions! You are lucky to have been part of such a ceremony. Thanks for the discovery.

  4. Such an incredible opportunity and you did a fabulous job of describing the festival. The photos really tell the story of the people as well. Enjoyed reading about the experience.

  5. Lucky you got this golden opportunity! And you have utilised it well too with wonderful description and pics.
    What a congregation there with all VIPs and artists!

  6. What an great opportunity you had to take part in this amazing festival. I have heard of it before and I was impressed by the amount of events and the beautiful scenery they all took place at. You described so well the day!

  7. Ladakh is beautiful and fascinating are their culture and traditions. Glad you made it to the Naropa festival and shared your experience with us.

  8. What a wonderful experience! You were so lucky to be a part of this festivities. Just love your pictures and all the descriptions. I almost felt I was there too. I think this kind of event just let us know a little bit more about this culture with so much history.

  9. What a cool opportunity to be able to go in as media! Ladakh seems so fascinating and I’d love to be able to do some more research on them after reading about them from this post.

  10. What an incredible once in a lifetime experience. I never knew about the event so thank you for educating me about it. It must have been mind blowing sitting there listening to so many monks chanting all at the same time.

  11. I think very amazing. You’re lucky to be the one chosen from many others. Maybe you’re a good person, so could be elected. hehehehe … Will this be your first experience?

  12. I can only imagine the beautiful sea of orange, yellow and faded blue – not to mention the amazing atmosphere and vibe of the whole celebration from opening to close. It sounds fantastic and I never would have known such a celebration existed if I had not read your post!

  13. When you get a chance to see something so rare and special, it truly is a once in a lifetime experience! You were at a VIP event and heard talent from Bhutan, Nepal and other countries! It is refreshing to see such dedication to faith in a colourful way.

  14. Wow this sounds like such an amazing experience! I’ve never heard of this celebration before.So cool that you got to partake. Thanks so much for sharing 😊

  15. From the early sunrise to the finish, what an incredibly filling, amazing experience. I would love to just sit and lose myself in the moment of listening to the chants of the monks and prayer narrations.

  16. This festival sounds so interesting, I hadn’t heard about it before but it definitely seems to be a once in a lifetime experience!
    Thanks so much for your great post and helping me discover this fascinating celebration.

  17. Lovely pictures and account. I love the vibrant and fun atmosphere of the festival. A perfect time to go to Ladakh.. Experience the natural beauty with its cultural vibrance….

  18. Such a wonderful experience this. I have become more interested in Buddhist ceremonies ever since I have started to follow the teachings of Buddha. I would have loved to be a part of this ceremony. Absolutely amazing.

    • Not to the extent of dedication but even I follow a bit the teachings of Buddhism. I’m very much influenced with the aura of positiveness creates through medication. You can try after 12 years and you know time will definitely fly away.

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