We have been working from Leh for the last 3 months. Every weekend we try and go on a bike ride. We recently visited the Hemis monastery. It is perched in the hills close to the Indus River.
It is one of the most popular monasteries in Ladakh. It is also the biggest and most famous monastery, thanks to the colorful festivals it hosts. But it is a lot more than just that. It is packed with history in its every nook and corner. The monastery is supposed to have existed well before the 11th century. It has been mentioned in important historical works, in which it is implied that Hemis was in fact where Jesus Himself had disappeared to during his “lost years”. Although this revelation has later been questioned and speculated about, it is still an interesting bit to keep in mind during a visit to the area.
Speaking of godly things, the festivals of Hemis also surround certain deities, specifically Lord Padmasambhava, who is claimed to be an incarnation of Lord Buddha. The Hemis Festival is actually a rare sight to catch, as it occurs in a cycle of twelve years! It takes place in the courtyard of the monastery; ceremonies are performed, prayers are offered, songs are sung. An intriguing addition to the festival is the mystical mask dance that is special to Ladakh.
Even on a regular day, there are beautiful sights to be seen here, and equally beautiful experiences to be had. Its architecture is consistently talked about by enthusiasts. It is of a Tibetan style. Its giant gates will stay in your mind, as well as the library within it. It holds some of the world’s most beautiful Thangka art pieces that are sure to dazzle you. Another wonderful addition to the experience is the Hemis Museum within it. Although history is a huge part of what makes the museum so special, a prized possession that rests here belongs to Gwalyang Drukpa, the current head of the Drukpa lineage, a key to upholding the culture of Vajrayana Buddhism. The possession may sound grand, but it is simply his mountain bike. The museum also houses old masks, paintings as well as a shop from where you can gather a few mementos that can be a tiny part of your home, constantly reminding you of the magic brought to you by Hemis Monastery.
Located 45 kilometers away from the city of Leh, Hemis is a great excuse for a road trip, especially during the months of June and July, in all of its festivity and glory. The Monastery offers rooms, in case you remain enchanted by it long enough to want to stay.