The state of Jammu and Kashmir has diverse cultural traditions. The three provinces of the Indian state are Kashmir, Jammu, and Ladakh, and each is different than the next. This fascinating diversity is also apparent in the festivals in Jammu and Kashmir that are most popular in each of these regions. From the point of view of an outsider, fairs and festivals represent a crash course in the culture of a people. Keeping this in mind, here is a list of the ten most popular festivals in this beautiful Indian state.
Top 10 Festivals In Jammu And Kashmir
These vibrant and joyous celebrations across J&K will make you want to visit this paradise at once!
1. Spituk Gustor Zanskar
This is a Tibetan festival celebrated in the Ladakhi monasteries of Thiksey, Spituk, and Karsha Nanzkar. Gustor stands for sacrifices made on the penultimate day of the month, and the festival is celebrated on the 30th and 31st October of every year. The festival is marked by special early morning prayers.
Visitors can witness the reenactment of the killing of the anti-Buddhist emperor of Tibet Langdarma by Buddhist monks. At the end of the festival, the sacrificial cake Torma is eaten. The cake itself is distributed by the monk who leads the Black Hat dancers. Amongst the most charming and ritualistic festivals in Jammu and Kashmir, Gustor represents the victory of good over evil.
Spituk Gustor Date in 2019: 3 – 4 January
2. Galdan Namchot
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This is amongst the most important festivals of Jammu and Kashmir and in Tibetan Buddhism. The festival marks the birth anniversary of Je Tsongkhapa, an important proponent of the Gelug branch of Tibetan Buddhism. On the fifth day of Galdan Namchot, Ladakh marks its new year called the Losar. The festival is marked most prominently by the extensive lighting of the Leh Palace. Monasteries and homes are also decorated.
Galdan Namchot Date in 2018: 2 December
3. Hemis Festival
This is one of the most elusive festivals in Jammu and Kashmir. Celebrated every 12 years at the Hemis Monastery at Hemis (about 45 kilometres from Leh), the festival honors Lord Padmasambhava, known as Guru Rinpoche in the region. The ritualistic festival is believed to bring spiritual and physical health to people. The ceremony is elaborate and features several ceremonial Tibetan items. However, the most fascinating aspect of the whole business are the Mask Dancers, who perform what is known as the Chams Dance.
Hemis Festival Date 2019: July 11 – 12
4. Tulip Festival in Jammu and Kashmir
This is a modern day celebration of tulips at the Indira Gandhi Memorial Tulip Garden in Srinagar. During the first 15 days of April every year, the spot is prepared for Asia’s largest tulip show attended by tulip connoisseurs, tourists, and also the local people. There are about 50 varieties and dozens of colours of tulips prepared specially for the festival.
The onset of spring in the valley is marked by the blooming of loads of beautiful flowers, and the Tulip Festival in Jammu and Kashmir is a great place to witness the most gorgeous sights of the season in the city.
Tulip Festival 2019 Date: April 1 – 15
The Ladakhi king Jamyang Namgyal was once told that he should postpone his war against Skardu until the end of winter, which was the traditional start of the new year throughout Tibet. However, the king decided to celebrate the new year two months early instead, and Ladakh has since marked the new year festival of Losar early.
Losar is traditionally celebrated for 15 days and is one of the main festivals of Jammu and Kashmir. A decoratory sheep’s head is made from colored butter, and incense made from rhododendron and juniper is commonly used in Ladakhi homes.
Losar Date in 2018: 8 December
6. Sindhu Darshan Festival
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This is a modern day festival meant as a celebration of the Sindhu River as a symbol of the oneness of the various strands that make the country. Since 1997, the Sindhu Darshan has happened every year on the banks of the Indus in Shey near Leh. Visitors immerse water from rivers near their homes into the Sindhu in a ceremony organised by a joint group of religious organisations. Later, monks pray on the banks and there is a bonfire at night.
Sindhu Darshan Date 2019: 12 – 14 June
7. Amarnath Yatra
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The Amarnath cave is one of the holiest sites for Hindus. Located about 140 km from the capital of Srinagar, the cave houses a stalagmite formation that is believed to be a representation of Shiva. Amarnath Yatra is the annual pilgrimage to the cave. The Yatra begins with a 43 km trek from Nunwan to Chandanwari villages in the Pahalgam region of Anantnag. After a night at Sheshnag lake and Panchtarni camps, visitors reach the glacial cave-temple.
Amarnath Yatra Dates 2018: June 28 – August 26
8. Ladakh Festival
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Ladakh Festival is a unique convergence of culture and enthusiasm. Held during the first 15 days of the month of September, the festival witnesses a number of colorful cultural troupes from the various parts of Ladakh that fill the major streets of Leh with the traditional music and dance of Jammu and Kashmir. Archery and polo competitions are also held during this festival and are wonderful treats for spectators.
The harvest festival of the Jammu and Kashmir region of Ladakh also takes place within these 15 days.
Ladakh Festival Dates 2018: 1 September – 15 September
9. Matho Nagrang
The monastic festivals are a major expression of Ladakhi culture and identity, and the Matho Nagrang is another such festival. Celebrated at the Matho Monastery near the city of Leh, the Matho Nagrang is marked by traditional dances performed by the monks of the Matho in decorated silver robes and fabulously decorated masks that are meant to represent the various gods.
The highlight of the festival are the two oracles that appear before the people at the ceremony after two months of shutting themselves from the world in solitary meditation.
Matho Nagrang Dates 2019: February 18 – 19
Dosmoche is an adorable Jammu and Kashmir festival name. Ladakhis throng the stretch between Moti Market to Leh Bazaar to have fun and witness the traditional dances performed by the monks in the Leh, Likir, and Diskit monasteries. The last of the new year festivals, the Dosmoche is especially renowned for its music, the beat of the drums and the prayers, and is one of the main festivals of Jammu and Kashmir.
Dosmoche Dates 2019: 2 – 3 February
There are many more festivals that can be added to the list of festivals in Jammu and Kashmir that are a collective expression of the deep rooted culture of the various regions. To be a part of these celebrations and witness all the fervour first-hand, book your trip to Kashmir with TravelTriangle!