Rare Bud­dhist fes­ti­val draws faith­ful

The Myanmar Times - - Front Page -

HUN­DREDS of thou­sands of monks, devo­tees and tourists have flocked to In­dia’s re­mote Ladakh re­gion for a rare Bud­dhist fes­ti­val, dubbed the “Kumbh Mela of the Hi­malayas” by pro­mot­ers.

Dancers in bright, silk cos­tumes and strik­ing head­gear per­formed to drum and pipe mu­sic as part of the fes­ti­val be­ing held in a moun­tain vil­lage to com­mem­o­rate the 1000th birth an­niver­sary of Bud­dhist saint Naropa.

The In­dian saint and scholar is her­alded by fol­low­ers for start­ing a rich tra­di­tion of Bud­dhist phi­los­o­phy in the 11th cen­tury.

Cel­e­brated only once ev­ery 12 years, the Naropa Fes­ti­val draws huge num­bers of Bud­dhists, es­pe­cially those from the Drukpa branch which is tra­di­tion­ally prac­tised in Ladakh and Bhutan.

Among those in the crowd in Hemis vil­lage for the week-long fes­ti­val was award-win­ning Chi­nese-Malaysian ac­tress Michelle Yeoh.

In­dia is renowned for its nu­mer­ous re­li­gious fes­ti­vals – in­clud­ing the main Kumbh Mela pil­grim­age for Hin­dus held ev­ery 12 years – dur­ing which masses of devo­tees gather at sa­cred rivers and tem­ples in of­ten chaotic scenes and in sear­ing tem­per­a­tures.

In con­trast, the Naropa Fes­ti­val is be­ing held in the tran­quil Hi­malayan vil­lage that in­cludes a palace and monastery, located some 45 kilo­me­tres (28 miles) from the re­gion’s main town of Leh.

A high­light of the week-long fes­ti­val that started on Septem­ber 16 was the dis­play of the sa­cred Six Bone Or­na­ments – be­lieved to have be­longed to Naropa – in an hours-long out­door cer­e­mony.

The Drukpa spir­i­tual leader or the Gyal­wang Drukpa un­veiled the or­na­ments – which in­clude a crown, ear­rings and a neck­lace – to scores of chant­ing ma­roon-robed monks and devo­tees seated un­der colour­ful um­brel­las as prayers were per­formed.

“I come from south In­dia. Now I came here to see this fes­ti­val ... There are many peo­ple [who] came by air­plane and from south In­dia and other coun­tries,” said Sonam Phuntsok, a monk from In­dia’s south­ern city of Ban­ga­lore.

“[It’s a] very nice place here. And the weather is very good. Lots of peo­ple came here, I’m very happy.”

An­other high­light is the cer­e­mo­nial un­furl­ing of a huge silk ta­pes­try of Ti­bet’s pa­tron saint Pad­masamb­hava. The bro­cade, known in Ti­betan as a thangka, was last ex­hib­ited in 2004.

Photos: AFP.

The Naropa Fes­ti­val is held high in the Hi­malayas.

Per­form­ers dance at one of the fes­ti­val’s cer­e­monies.

A young Bud­dhist monk at­tends prayers dur­ing the Naropa Fes­ti­val.

The Bud­dhist gath­er­ing takes place only once ev­ery 12 years.

In­dia is well known for its many large-scale re­li­gious fes­ti­vals.

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