As much as the natural beauty of Leh Ladakh puts me on a wanderlust overdrive, I am equally enamored by the vibrant Ladakhi culture. In particular their lovely festivals. Full of rich mythological stories, dance, drama, special cuisines, prayers and songs, it’s during these unique Ladakhi festivals you can actually savor your trip to the fullest.
In particular, Thiksey Gustor is one festival that I find especially fascinating. Although early winters is not the peak tourist season, it’s perfect if you’re planning to witness this festival.
So dear wanderlusters, on your next trip to Leh Ladakh, it’d be a swell idea to time your trip with this enchanting festival!
Celebrated in the nippy months of October/November, this 2-day festival is known for its vibrant rituals, dance and drama. It mainly takes place at Thiksey, Spituk and Karsha regions of Leh Ladakh.
Marking the the victory of good over evil, the highlight of this festival is towards its end – with the symbolic assassination of evils and burning of the effigy of evils.
There’s also a dramatic enactment of this assassination by dancers who wear elaborate masks. These dancers represent the Guardians, Protectors and the Gods and Goddesses.
Thiksey Gustor – What does it mean?
The word ‘Gustor’ means ‘sacrificing’ while ‘Thiksey’ is a monastery where this festival takes place. Thiksey is approximately 18 km from the town of Leh. The Thiksey monastery belongs to the Gelukpa Order of Buddhism.
Interesting Rituals of the Festival
During the festival period, there are early morning prayers every day. At the conclusion of the festival, a special ceremony called ‘Argham’ or ‘killing’ is performed. Here Torma or the sacrificial cake is destroyed/dismembered by the leader of the mask-wearing dancers.The leader then distributes this sacrifical cake, marking the end of the festival and commemorating the victory of good over bad.
Moreover, effigies of Langdarma are made, and through elaborate rituals all the negative spirits are transferred into the effigy by a sacrificial substitute. This effigy, after absorbing these spirits, is then “killed” ritually.
This entire process of ”Argham” portrays the symbolic assassination of the traitor King Lang Darma of Tibet by a Buddhist monk during the mid 9th century.
With its symbolic assassination of evils and burning of the effigy of evils, to me this festival feels quite reminiscent of the Hindu festival Dussehra.
I don’t know about you but I’d be sure to witness one of these festivals on my next trip here. And for all you photography enthusiasts out there, prepare to get some truly mind-blowing and stunning shots!
Have you been to Leh-Ladakh before? I’d love to know your experience! Do share it in the comments below! 🙂