All About Ladakh’s Thiksey Gustor Festival

thiksey gustor festival

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.

thiksey gustor
Participating monks playing the trumpet during the mask dance of Thiksey Gustor. PC: Kettikdotcom

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!

Thiksey Gustor 

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.

Thiksey Gustor
The masked dancers entertaining the crowds during Thiksey Gustor. PC: Kettikdotcom

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.

thiksey gustor
PC: The mask dancers performing during Thiksey Gustor.

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! 🙂


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Aparna Ghildiyal
I’m a true blue gypsy at heart. YES is my buzzword. Planning a travel adventure? You can always count me in. Treat me to good food, and you can be my friend forever. Fashion has been my guilty pleasure ever since I was a little girl who loved poring over the sparkling jewels and opulent gowns of Disney princesses. Keeping fit and showing love to my body is what keeps me feeling good. I LOVE those looooong discussions and stimulating experiences concerning spirituality, religion, and things beyond – the explorer in me is forever fascinated by these. A neuroscientist-turned-writer-turned-online marketer, my little 5-year-old career has seen me wearing multiple hats. In my world, there are no rules chiefly because I ain’t got no motivation to make or break ‘em.

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