The religious philosophy of Buddhism, however, profound and subtle doesn’t preclude an immense joie-de-vivre among its Ladakhi adhe-rents, and even solemn religious enhancements are made the occasion for joyous celebration. Many of the annual festivals of the gompas take place in winter, a relatively idle time for the majority of the people. They take the form of dance dramas in the gompas courtyards. Lamas, robed in colourful garments and wearing often startlingly frightful masks, perform mimes representing various aspect to the religion such as the progress of the individual soul and its purification or the triumph of good over evil. Local people flock from near and far to these events, and the spiritual benefits they get are no doubt heightened by there enjoyment of the party atmosphere, with crowds of women and men, the opportunity to make the new friendships and renew old ones, the general bustle and sense of occasion.
The biggest and most famous of the monastic festivals, frequented by tourists and locals alike, is that of Hemis, which falls in late June or the first half of July, and is dedicated to Padmasambhava. Every 12 years, the gompa’s greatest treasure, a hung thangka – a religious icon printed or embroidered on cloth – is ritually exhibited. The next Unveilling is due to take place in A.D. 2004. Other monasteries, which have summer festivals, are Lamayaru (early in the month of July) Phiyang (held in the month late July or early August) Tak – thok (about ten days after Phiyang) and Karsha in Zanskar (11 days after Phiyang) Like Hemis, the Phiyang festival too involves the exhibition of a gigantic thangka, though here it is done every year.
Spituk, Stok, Thikse, Chemrey and Matho all have their festivals in winter, between month of November and March. Lirik and Deskit (Nubra) time their festivals of the scapegoat, which is also celebrated with fervours at Leh. Falling in the second half of February. Dosmoche a great wooden mast decorated with streamers and religious emblems is set up outside Leh. At the appointed time, offerings of storma ritual figures molded out of dough are brought out and ceremonially cast away into the desert, or burnt. These scapegoats carry away with them the evil spirits of the old year, and thus the town is cleansed and made ready to welcome the New Year.
Losar falls about the time of the winter solstice, any time of the month between 8th and 30th December. All Ladakhi Buddhist celebrate it by making offerings to the gods, both in the gompas and in their domestic shrines.
Baisakhi festival is celebrated in the month of April on 13th or 14th. The name Baisakhi is taken from the fast month of the Vikram calendar. Every year, on the first day of Vaishakh, the people of Jammu – like the rest of northern India – celebrated Baisakhi. Baisakhi is also known as the harvest festival and is considered auspicious especially for marriages. Devotees who unfailingly take a ritual dip every year throng Rivers, canals and ponds. Many people go to the Nagbani Temple to witness a grand New Year celebration. Numerous fairs are organized and people come in thousands to celebrate the beginning of the New Year and watch the famous Bhangra dance of Punjab. For the Sikhs of Jammu, Baisakhi is the day their tenth Guru Gobind Singhji formed the Khalsa sect in 1699. The Gurudwaras are full of people who come to listen to Kirtans, offer prayers and feast on the prasad from the common Kitchen (Langar).
Bahu Mela is celebrated in the month of March – April and September – October. A major festival is held at the Kali Temple in Bahu Fort (Jammu), twice a year.
Chaitre Chaudash festival is celebrated in the month of March – April. Chaitre Chaudash is celebrated at Uttar Behni, about 25 kms from Jammu. Uttar Behni gets its name from the fact that the Devak River (also known as Gupta Ganga locally) flows here in the northerly direction.
This festival is celebrated in the month of October – November. Baba Jitu was a simple, God loving and honest farmer who preferred to kill himself rather than submit to the unjust demands of the local landlord to part with his crop. He killed himself in the village of Jhiri, 14 kms from Jammu. A legend has grown around the Baba and his followers congregate at Jhiri on the appointed day from every corner of North India, they revere him for his compassion, courage and honesty and hold an annual fair in his name.
This festival is known as Maker Sankranti and celebrated in the month of January on 13th, every year. It heralds the onset of spring. The whole of Jammu region wears a festive look on this day. Thousands take a dip in the holy rivers. ‘Havan Yagnas’ light up nearly every house and temple in Jammu. In the rural areas, custom requires boys to go around asking for gifts from newly – weds and new parents.
A special dance called the ‘Chajja’ dance is held on the occasion of Lohri. It makes a striking picture to see boys along with their‘ Chajjas’ elaborately decorated with coloured paper and flowers move on the street in a dancing procession. The whole atmosphere comes alive with the pulsating drumbeats.
Mansar Food and Craft Mela:
J&K Tourism organizes this Mela during Baisakhi(April) every year. Held at the picturesque Mansar Lake 62 km from Jammu, it is three-day celebration of the local crafts and cuisine, where people from adjoining states also take part.
This fair is celebrated in the month of February – March. Purmandal is 39 kms from Jammu city. On Shivratri, the town is transformed for three days as people celebrate the marriage of of Lord Shiva to Goddess Parvati here. The people of Jammu also come out in their colourful best to celebrate Shivratri at Peer Khoh, the Ranbireshwar Temple and the Panjbhaktar Temple.
Tulip festival is one of the most popular flower festivals. This festival is organised from the 5 to 15th of April in Srinagar at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden. Large number of tourists from all over the country comes here to see the large variety of Tulips.
This festival is organized by Kashmir government in Gulmarg between January & February.
This festival is held in October. During this time every saffron is in full bloom. This is the opportunity to see the harvesting of saffron in the fields.