Did You Know About Ladakh's Festival Of Lights, Galdan Namchot?

With the lighting of butter lamps, community feasts, and dances, Galdan Namchot kicks off Losar in Ladakh
Did You Know About Ladakh's Festival Of Lights, Galdan Namchot?

Galdan Namchot, also known as the Festival of Lights, is a Tibetan and Mongol festival which begins on the 25th day of the 10th month of the Tibetan calendar. It is celebrated with great fanfare in Ladakh, where Galdan Namchot also kicks off the region's Losar (Tibetan New Year) celebrations. This year, it will be celebrated on December 7.

Galdan Namchot is also known as the Festival of Lights
Galdan Namchot is also known as the Festival of Lights@avantgardetraveler/Instagram

Traditions And Rituals

Leh Palace lit up on Galdan Namchot festival
Leh Palace lit up on Galdan Namchot festivalAKS.9955/WikiCommons

Throughout the festivities, monasteries and other structures in Ladakh are bathed in light. Monasteries are especially a sight to behold as they are illuminated during Galdan Namchot. To represent the annihilation of darkness, butter lamps are also lit. As a result, it is also known as the "Festival of Lights."

People in Ladakh pay visits to friends and family, and they gather for feasts. Traditional dishes are prepared and served in households. The khata or khatag, a traditional ceremonial scarf in Tibetan Buddhism is gifted to people and worn during the festival.

A variety of dumplings are prepared during the festival
A variety of dumplings are prepared during the festivalbrightface/Shutterstock

The Origins

Celebrated in Tibet, Mongolia, and many Himalayan regions, the festival commemorates Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419 AD), a famous Tibetan Buddhist scholar who was behind the formation of the Gelug school of Tibetan Buddhism. Special prayers and rituals are held in Ladakh's monasteries in honour of Je Tsongkhapa, and those who attend such ceremonies.

Traditional Ladakhi dances and music are common sights and sounds at this festival. Monks in monasteries perform a variety of masked dances to commemorate the triumph of good over evil, while drums, cymbals, and traditional instruments fill the air. More about the festival here.

What To Do

Aerial View from Thiksey Monastery, Leh
Aerial View from Thiksey Monastery, LehChetan Karkhanis/Flickr Commons

Explore The Villages

If you love travelling, Ladakh should indisputably make it to your bucket list of places to visit. And even if you have visited the region earlier, it's not yet time to check it off, for besides Nubra and Leh, there's so much more to explore in the lesser-known villages. We have curated a list of offbeat villages in Ladakh you must head to make the most of the remaining time before harsh winter befalls.

Immersive Experiences

While a trip to Ladakh always promises a memorable experience, the region holds much more than what the eyes meet, and nobody knows it better than somebody who calls the region home. You can sign up with local responsible travel organisations for an immersive experience during the festival. For instance, Roots Ladakh, which is a ten-year-old travel venture specialising in curating immersive experiences across Kargil and Zanskar will show you how.

Getting There

The nearest airport is Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport in Leh, which is around 1km away. Cabs are available outside the airport. To reach by road, there are two routes, via Srinagar and Manali. The distance from Srinagar to Ladakh is 434 km, while from Manali it is 494 km.

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