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Hemis Monastery


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a memorable visit to Hemis during the Angchock festival.

The Hemis monastery may not look as pretty or spectacular as some of the other monasteries (Thiksey, Chemre, Spituk etc) in Ladakh. But i love it for its simple and practical design which makes it easily accessible by the visitors.

For starters one does not have to climb a plethora of steps to enter the monastery. It is easily accessible by foot. The entrance opens up to a vast courtyard where the annual mask dance festival takes place. The monastery's main building is on the right side, facing the courtyard and a beautiful two-tired viewing arcade lines the other three sides of the courtyard. The walls of the arcade facing the main building are adorned with beautiful stone slab paintings.

Overall you get an overwhelming sense of openness and space here when compared to any other monastery in Ladakh.

Different views of the Hemis courtyard

The facade of the main building facing the courtyard is impressive with its numerous wooden balconies and windows. Two flights of steps lead the visitor into the two congregation halls of the monastery. The first of which is the dukhang (assembly hall) and a little farther down to its left is the tsogkhang.

The inner walls of these halls are richly adorned with wall paintings and they house an impressive collection of sculptures and a few thangkas. But nothing that really makes them standout from the other monasteries.

I enjoyed spending time on the roof of the main building. From the roof, you get great birds eye view of the courtyard below and one can spend quite a bit of time here watching the monks and the visitors milling about in the courtyard below.

The living quarters of the monks are scattered about on the hill beside the monastery.

The Angchok festival.

The Angchok festival takes place every year during November. The festival alternates between the Chemrey and Hemis monasteries each year. Both Hemis and Chemrey (Chemde) are sister concerns both belonging to the Drukpa order and maintain close ties, especially during the religious festivals.

I was not aware of this fact and i cycled to Chemrey to attend the Angchok festival. At Chemrey  i was told that the festival was happening at Hemis that year (2010). But to my surprise they told me that the festival also would take place at the Takthok monastery in the Sakthi village. So i decided to attend the festival at Takthok one day and at Hemis the next day.

The atmosphere at both the monasteries was very relaxed with less crowds and even less tourists. I believe that i was the only tourist at Takthok, while at Hemis there were a few more tourists. The festival at Hemis was definitely the more impressive of the two with the dancers enacting the various (eight i believe) miraculous events in guru Padmasambhava's life.

Accommodation options at Hemis :

During the main tourist season, the monks run the Hemis Spiritual Retreat offering simple clean rooms and food for the visitors. There is a board near the monastery entrance giving more details about the retreat. 


It is also possible to find homestay accommodation at the Hemis village. You can talk to the proprietor of the Garden Restaurant right outside the Hemis monastery. He can offer you homestay accommodation at this home in the village. And also point you towards a few other houses in the village offering homestays.