Hemis, the biggest monastery in Ladakh will celebrate one thousand years of Buddhist yogi Naropa's visit with a month-long festival of dance, music and religious teachings in July next year.
An 11th century saint, Naropa was believed to have been born a prince into a royal family in Kashmir and the king and queen besides the kingdom's subjects agreed it was not befitting for Naropa to dwell in the midst of worldly people and that he should be among practitioners of the Dharma.
Hence, he was sent off to be educated at the Nalanda University where he debated with Buddhist scholars and eventually became one of the gatekeepers at the institution.
Titled "Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas," the festival, derives its name from the mass Hindu pilgrimage held every three years in Uttar Pradesh and on similar lines seeks to bring not only the different sects of Buddhism but also people from across the globe together both physically and spiritually.
"Kumbh mela is something that is holy and well known. But, many people in the Himalayas have no idea about it. The festival will be a very holy and spiritual experience. Lots of people will gather to see big ceremonies. Therefore, we call it the Himalayan Kumbh Mela," says Thuksey Rinpoche, who is ranked second in the Drukpa lineage hierarchy of Tibetan Buddhism.
The festival is expected to be an extended rendition of the annual Hemis festival observed at the monastery that celebrates Guru Padmasambhava's birth anniversary, with monks donning traditional silk costumes and brightly painted masks dance to the sounds of instruments like longhorns, cymbals and drums.
However, since he is believed to have been born in the Monkey year, which comes every tweleve years, of the Tibetan calendar as predicted by the Buddha Shakyamuni, a four-storey high silk embroidery (Thanka), portraying Guru Padmasambhava donning pearls and semi-precious stones is displayed along with an exhibition of Naropa's ornaments, is held on the ocassion.
The devotional art piece was last exhibited in the year 2004.
"Normally every year there is celebration but since in 2016, it will be 1000 years of Naropa's visit to Ladakh, besides the unfurling of the historic traditional silk thanka on July 14, 2016, it will also witness the largest assembly of Drukpa masters offering their teachings and sermons," says First Chief Abbot of Hemis monastery, Khenpo Tsewang Rigzin, who is also a Buddhist scholar.