Experience the vibrancy of Naropa Festival in Ladakh
Similar to Kumbh Mela, the Naropa festival is celebrated every year in Ladakh to celebrate the life of the famous Buddhist philosopher and teacher – Naropa.
Norapa Festival in Ladakh - India is known to be the land of colorful and vibrant festivals and Naropa Festival is one of them. Held in the Ladakh region for years, the festival boasts of toothless beams, tuneful intonation, and prayer wheels.
Nestles against the background of the grand mountains of Ladakh, the Naropa festival is nothing short than a fabulous way to experience the culture of the local land. It is not just an opportunity to interact with the locals, but also to get a remarkable vision into the legend behind the festival.
# Legend of Naropa
Hailing from Bengal, Naropa was a scholar from Nalanda University. He moved to Kashmir to propagate the teachings of Buddha. During the course of his life, he was directed to his guru Tilopa, who put him through 12 tests of destitutions. Upon completing that, Naropa attained enlightenment. He was presented with Six Bone relics by a Dakini, which he, in turn, transferred to his follower Marpa. He prophesized that these blessed ornaments (crown, necklace, earrings, bracelets, seralkha and apron) would be termed as his lineage and would always provide religious support.
The existing head of the Drukpa ancestry – His Holiness Gyalwang Drukpa – is known to be from the Naropa lineage and every 12 years, he tutors the Six Bone relics to mark the celebrations. In the other years, one of each of these remnants is brought out of the Hemis Monastery during the festival and is put for public display. The Naropa Festival 2018 had the crown on display.
# The procession of the relics
The Naropa Festival of last year started with the entrance of the relics from the Hemis Monastery. Eyes battered the road that winds down to the newly built Naropa Stupa (called Naro Photang) – a bit away from the monastery. The noises of the traditional windpipes and drums echo across the rocky landscape proclaiming the arrival of the celebrated ornament. Roofed with a cloth, the relic was taken around the Naro Photang to the top where it was eventually, showcased. The crown of Naropa with, the original hair of the Buddha expected the devotees to arrive.
# Unfurling the biggest Thangka
If the Naropa relics were the major attraction of the festival on day one, it was the unfurling of the biggest silk Amitabha that grabbed the attention of the visitors on other days. 70 feet in height, the Thangka was revealed every morning on the days that followed and closed by noon. The conventional art has the tale of Guru Padmasambhava in vivacious colors. It is not just the Thangka piece that was fascinating but also the rituals that were part of it.
# Fun and food at Naropa 2018
Before the display of the relic to the public, a short cultural feast shadowed the unveiling. From presentations by the first class of the Naropa Fellowship Program to the Ladakhi dances by popular Kung-Fu nuns of the Drukpa family, there was sure to keep one glazed. Around the Naro Photang, various local food trucks served tasty local delicacies while the flea market kept the shopaholics engaged with their merchandise.
# Ladakhi dance
Do you know that Naropa 2018 was really great as it Guinness Book of World Records for the World’s Largest Ladakhi Dance performance, where 299 Ladakhi women gracefully performed the quite famous dance of “Shondol”.
The Naropa festival is held every year in September and you can expect to get something new at this Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas. The addition along with the cultural fiesta is the dreamlike beauty of the land- an ideal treat for any traveler.