Naropa Festival Ladakh - Mahakumbh of Himalayas

Ladakh, The Land of Mountain Passes 

Being Delhi guy, I have always been asked “Bro, lets go to Ladakh” and before I got into blogging and photography, I have been to Ladakh, not for clicks but to create amazing memories with my friends.
Riding bike without Google Maps or Go Pro, enjoying every bit of my Bike ride across Amazing views , with laughter and songs on the way, no selfies or camera poking my view, Asking for directions from strangers, who were always helpful and explained the route with smile. Taking rest at army camp who always comfort us with tea and some amazing stories which made us proud and happy that they are there for us.
That was Ladakh for me.. Fun and Laughter with Friends

This time the trip to Ladakh was a spiritual journey, we were here to cover Naropa festival which is called the Mahakumbh of Himalayas.
More than half a million people from across the Himalayas gather in Ladakh every year to celebrate Naropa’s life. 

This month-long festival includes several rare cultural which includes the ceremonial unfurling of one of the greatest regional treasures – the largest silk embroidery of Buddha Amitabha that stretches several stories in height, a beloved devotional art piece that is only displayed to public audiences during the Naropa festival.

The Naropa events bring together the largest assembly of Drukpa masters and include cultural performances by prominent Himalayan artists, representing the greater Drukpa community.

Who is Naropa ?

Naropa an Indian Scholar-Saint, born into a long line of kings and noblemen. He embraced a spiritual life at an early age and became Chancellor of Nalanda University. Because of his intellectual agility and fierce oratory skills, he became the “Northern Gatekeeper” of Nalanda – a moniker of great distinction.

Despite his worldly success, Naropa encountered Varja Yogini, appearing as an old ugly woman, who humbled him by pointing out his spiritual misconceptions and urged him to find his destined guru, Tilopa. Upon finding Tilopa, Naropa underwent twelve major and twelve lesser hardships to purify his karma and test his determination. Each of these legendary hardships broke down Naropa’s misconceptions and furthered his understanding of the universe which ultimately led to the state of Varjradhara and Perfect Enlightenment. Upon the moment of enlightenment, Naropa was offered the Six Bone Ornaments by Dakinis and flew into the sky.
The Six Bone Ornaments of Naropa are one of the most revered relics of Buddhism and historic symbols of the great Himalayan odyssey. Naropa wore the Six Bone Ornaments upon achieving enlightenment. 

Hemis Monestary
Naropa heralded the beginning of a rich tradition in Buddhist philosophy. His legacy and lessons traversed the Himalayas and shaped the identity and culture of many people. His life is upheld as an example of determination, perseverance and endurance and his teachings of the Six Yogas of Naropa are one the fundamental pillars of Vajrayana Buddhist tradition. His legacy of experiential learning and active compassion helped civilization flourish far beyond its immediate Buddhist community. 

Naropa Festivities

Hemis monestary is located 40 Km from Leh city, tucked in a hidden valley, is the most renowned and biggest monastery in Ladakh.

Naro Photang is the Stupa build approximately 2km from Hemis Monastery to Host the Grand Celebrations of Naropa Festival. This is a base white structure with Hint of colors from Statues and colorful fluttering flags, with backdrop to varied colored mountain peaks. This structure looks heavenly.

Energy of the festival was in air, With Colorful attires and smiles all over the place. Cute Monk kids the added to the overall color with their laughter and unending smiles, you cannot stop yourself but to smile with them and I was so tempted to hold their chubby cheeks.

The festival officially kicked off with Playing of instruments and people welcoming the unveiling of Naropa’s “Crown Ornament,” along with a set of ancient spiritual relics of Buddhist tradition. 

These rarely-seen holy artifacts were on display for all five days of the festival, drawing large crowds and pilgrims. The “Crown Ornament” on display was one of Naropa’s famed Six Bone Ornaments
(Crown, Necklace, Earrings, Bracelets, Seralkha and Apron)

Festivities included some amazing music and dance performances by local ladakhi groups in colorful attires.

Ladakh’s first EDM Album, “Rhythm of the Stars,” also debuted during the Naropa Festival.
Produced by young Ladakhi musical talents, album is a beautiful mix of
electronica and the traditional sounds of the region. The proceeds from the album will be
donated to Kerala flood survivors fund.

 “Kung Fu Nuns” of the Drukpa lineage of Buddhism made an appearance
on the stage as well. They performed a self-chorepgraphed “Dharma Dance” 

A cultural highlight of the festival was the unfurling of a great Himalayan treasure – the
largest silk embroidery of Buddha Amitabha. This immense work of craftsmanship and art
stretches 70 foot in height, and exposure is limited only to special events.

His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche

The five-day festival concluded with a new Guinness World Record for Ladakh, India. Earning
the title of “Largest Ladakhi Dance” 299 Ladakhi women gracefully
performed the famous dance of “Shondol”. 

Some refreshments at festival included Pink Butter Tea called Gur Gur tea, which was refreshing and a different twist to regular tea as this one was Salty :)

Naropa Fellowship and Initiatives:

The festival stage also introduced the inaugural class of the Naropa Fellowship, a new one-
year, post-graduate academic program designed to support the next generation of
Leaders/Entrepreneur  in India and the greater Himalayas.
The Co-founder of the Naropa Fellowship, His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, told us during interaction session on how important it is to encourage Leadership in our youth.
During this program they are introducing guest faculty from some of the premier institutions from across the world, which will help get different perspective and guide next generation Change Leaders.

His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche

His Eminence also emphasized on Live to Love initiative in which they have given easy to carry dustbins to all cab drivers to help keep Ladakh clean and plastic free.

Thanks to Instax Camera I was not only able to click selfie with His Eminence, but was also able to Gift him the Selfie

People at Naropa

I was Amazed to see the reach of the festival, people from far off areas were here and everyone was happy to be part of this festival. I have to say I have never seen so many colors and happy faces even in some of the major concerts. There was so much positivity that it was just infectious.

Some Facts You Should Know about Festival

There are no tickets to this festival, so you can enjoy every bit of it at your comfort and its being organized every year now. 
Great occasion  to visit Ladakh if you want to have some view of the life of people and get a deep dive into Culture of Ladakh. 
People are friendly and you will rejuvenate with Positive energy all around.
Location is 40 km from Leh so Hire a bike or cab to reach this location, make sure you have vehicle available for return.
Mornings/Afternoon is sunny at the location so make sure to carry cap/hat, and apply good sunscreen.
Evenings are really cold so make sure to carry extra layers of clothing.

Till next time....Keep it STYLISH By Nature !! 
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