Kashmir, heaven on Earth is popular because of its diverse culture and landscapes. The charm of the enduring mountains creates a calming and soothing atmosphere. Festivals do add a special touch to the land of Kashmir. People in Kashmir come together to celebrate festivals together forgetting all the communal tensions among them. Festivals are celebrated with great zeal and zest and lots of merry-making.
Some of the main festivals which are popular in Kashmir are listed as under:
1. Hemis Festival
Hemis Gompa is one of the richest monasteries located in Ladakh and the Hemis festival is celebrated with enthusiasm and people from different parts of India come here to take part in this show. Hemis Festival marks the birthday of Padmasambhava who was the founder of Buddhism in Tibetan culture. The Tibetan Lunar month falls in May and this festival is celebrated during that time. It is held in the large courtyard of the monastery.
Men get dressed in traditional attires with heavy jewelry as custom. The Chaam dance is famous during this time at the beat of drums and horns. Chaam dance is an important part of Tantric Buddhism. This festival is held to remember the heroic victory of Padmasambhava.
2. Tulip Festival
Kashmir is famous for Tulips as there are hundreds of Tulip gardens present in Kashmir. Kashmir hosts Asia's highest tulip gardens and this is the fact that Tulips festival is celebrated in the region. During the springtime, the tulips are a feast to the eyes. The sight is quite breathtaking and mesmerizing. The festival is held at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden located in Srinagar. The festival showcases some authentic Kashmiri cuisines and handicrafts to show the explicit culture of Kashmir. The cultural programs along with the array of tulips make it a must-visit to this festival.
3. Shikara Festival
Considered as the lifeline of Kashmir, The Dal Lake needs to be celebrated once in a while. Shikara needs the utmost attention in Kashmir. To promote tourism in the state, the Government started on this festival from the year 2016. The Shikaras are designed and decorated in a really beautiful way during the festival. Several matches are organized during this time. The Shikaras participate in the Shikara race, Canoe Polo match and Dragon Race. The festival takes place in July or August. The culture of Kashmir is shown amazingly during the Shikara festival.
4. Spituk Gustor Zanskar
This is an important festival of Kashmir and is celebrated in the special monasteries of Ladakh. The festival is hosted in October or November. The word Gustor stands for all the sacrifices made in the land. This is marked during the penultimate day of the month. The festival starts with special prayers recited in the mornings.
Gustor is the idea of good over evil and visitors get a chance to see the killing of Tibet Langdarma through shows by the Buddhist monks. The sacrificial cake Torma is taken after the end of the festival. There is a tradition that the cake should be served by the monk who is the leader of Black Hat dancers. Anyone interested in witnessing this festival can visit Ladakh during January.
5. Amarnath Yatra
The Amarnath Yatra is getting popular day by day and because of this reason, this festival is still the most awaited festival of Kashmir. The Amarnath caves are one of the holiest places for Hindus. It is located about 140km from Srinagar and it is a representation of the presence of Shiva in the caves. Amarnath Yatra is a 43km trek from Nunwan to Chandanwari village located at Pahalgam district. One has to spend a night at the Sheshnag Lake and Panchtarni camps before reaching Amarnath Yatra. It is a glacial cave and snow covers upmost part of the cave. Amarnath yatra starts in June.
The celebration of Losar has another significance for the Ladakhi people. JamyangNamgyalwas said to postpone the war because of heavy winters. But, the king had other plans for himself and celebrated the New Year ahead of 2 months. Since that time, Ladakh has been celebrating New Year 2 months early to the rest of India. Losar is celebrated for about 15 days and is elegant in its way.
A decorated sheep’s head is made from colored butter and incense sticks are made from rhododendron and juniper and is a ritual in every Ladakhi home. Losar is celebrated in February.
Dosmoche is a simple and adorable festival in Jammu and Kashmir which is hosted from Moti Market to Leh Bazaar and it is a fun festival to watch. Cultural dances and programs are what you have to look for at this festival. All of the dances are performed by the monks of Dikshit and Leh. The drum beats and taste of music are what people look for in Dosmoche. This is the last festival in the calendar of New Year and is a must-see.
8. Ladakh Festival
The Ladakh festival is the harvest season day of Jammu and Kashmir. It is held during 15 days of September. It is one festival that witnesses several cultural troupes and programs which are a great thing to watch. It spreads out through various streets of Leh and the traditional music is heard all the way long. Competitions like archery and polo are held at this festival. This festival just takes place within those 15 days.
9. Gurez festival
Gurez is one of the placid valleys located in the Himalayas and the views of the place are quite scenic. Neelum River flows through the valley which makes it perfect for river rafting. The Gurez festival is held in the valley where people showcase their ultimate talent just by portraying handicrafts and cuisines. Trekking, zorbing, cycling, etc. are some of the many activities which are held at the festival. Gurez is celebrated from July to August. All of the cultures of Kashmir is shown at this festival.
10. Sindhu Darshan Festival
This is quite a modern festival which started its origin from 1997. This festival is held as part of a religious ceremony of the Sindhu river. The Sindhu Darshan happened every year in the riverbanks of Lake Indus. It is a joint group of the festival by different religious organizations. Bonfire is made at night and all the monks gather to pray at the banks of the river. This festival is held during June and is quite a rare festival.
11. Matho Nagrang
Monastic festivals are an important expression of festivals by Ladakhi people and MathoNagrang is another of the same festival. The monks are seen wearing silver robes for the occasion and they wear various decorated masks in names of the Gods that they worship. The best part of the festival is the two oracles which only appear during the ceremony time after they shut themselves from the rest of the world in meditation. They stay in solidarity for those 2 months.
This Eid is celebrated after month-long fasting by Muslims from around the world. This festival is marked by wearing new clothes, sweets exchange and meeting relatives and near and dear ones. EidUlZuha is the BakraEid where a goat is sacrificed in every Muslim house. Eid is a communal festival and celebrated many times a day.
These are some of the renowned festivals that are held in Kashmir every year. If you are someone who wants to know the diverse background of a particular region, festivals can help you achieve so. Book your tickets for anyone of the Kashmir festivals today.