Naropa Festival in Ladakh– ‘The Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas’

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Last Updated on December 5, 2019 by asoulwindow

The Drukpa Order celebrates the once-in-12-years Naropa Festival ; invites everyone to be a part of the largest Buddhist Festival in the world.

We all have dreamt of heading to the Ladakh region in Jammu and Kashmir at some point of time. Especially after the movie 3 Idiots hammered it in the mind of an entire generation. This year, there is a special reason to go there. This year the mighty mountains of Leh will be witnessing a grand Buddhist festival which occurs every 12 years only.

From 16-22 September 2016, the barren landscapes of Ladakh will be embellished with the festive red, yellow, greens et al.  Ladakh based Drukpa Order, the leading sect of Himalayan Buddhism will be helming the events of this grand spiritual celebration that happens once in 12 years.


I was invited to a press conference where His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche addressed the media. If you remember, he made an appearance in the Bollywood movie 3 idiots. He briefed us not only about the unique festival but also about the many social welfare programs handled by the foundation Live to Love such as planting trees, providing education to the underprivileged, empowering of women, the works!

The foundation ‘Live to Rescue’ has set up an adoption shelter to tackle the growing dog population in Ladakh. I was moved by the many ‘pad yatras’ organised. Monks walk the length and breadth of the country and even cross international borders, conveying their message to the humanity. Any one is free to join. I am hoping to someday walk with them in the Ladakh region. This will not only give me a better understanding of their work but will also give me a more immersive travel experience.

Dog Rescue Cente at Ladakh!

Druk Parma Karpo School, also known as Rancho’s school after it shot to fame, post its appearance in 3 idiots is presently the only green school in the Himalayas. The school was opened with the objective of providing world class education to its students along with education steeped in local ethos and values.

Expect half a million people to attend the festival this year. It is going to be a unique mix of spirituality, culture and diversity. To keep the events lively, performances by leading Bollywood celebrities are lined up.  Many high profile dignitaries from across the globe are also expected to arrive. His Eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche, one of the regents of the Drukpa Order, announced the dates of Naropa 2016 at the recently concluded Hemis Festival in Leh.

Me with his eminence Drukpa Thuksey Rinpoche. You saw him in 3 idiots. Pic by Swati Jain 

Naropa is the patron Saint of the Drukpa Order whose life heralded the beginning of a rich tradition in Buddhist philosophy. Himalayan Buddhism and its offshoots across Central Asia are steeped in the teachings of Naropa who played a defining role in shaping the culture and identity of various communities. Saint Naropa resided in Ladakh, where he mastered the “Six Yogas of Naropa.” These are now meditational pillars of Vajrayana Buddhism, and are fundamental to nearly every school and lineage of the greater Himalayas. His message of experiential learning and active compassion continue to be the fundamental principles of the Drukpa Order and have earned the lineage a robust global following.

The most awaited ceremony at the Naropa Festival will be when His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa shall don the Six Bone Ornaments that are the physical legacy of Saint Naropa– left behind after his liberation.  His holiness is the spiritual head of the Drukpa Order who is revered as Naropa’s reincarnation.


You can plan your Ladakh Trip keeping in mind the Naropa Festival

 Key highlights of Naropa 2016:

16th September 2016 ▪     His Holiness the Gyalwang Drukpa dons the Six Ornaments of Naropa – which are said to provide ‘liberation on sight’ to all those who witness it

▪     A Fashion Parade showcasing the unique culture and tradition of Ladakh and the fusion with modern world

▪     Performance by renowned Bollywood Singer KK

17th September  2016 ▪     Public Display of Six Bone Ornaments

▪     Performances by Bollywood music director & producer Vishal &Shekhar

18th September 2016 ▪     Rare opportunity to learn about the teachings of the Lineage disseminated by Drukpa Masters themselves

▪     Performances by regional celebrities from Ladakh and Kashmir

▪     Performances by Bollywood Choreographer Terence Lewis & his troupes.

19th September 2016 ▪     Unfurling of silk Thangka of Buddha Amitabha – the largest silk brocade in the Himalayas

▪     Traditional archery competition

▪     Musical concert with Music Director Trio Shankar, Ehsaan Loy

20th September 2016 ▪     50 stanzas on Guru Devotion by His Holiness the 12thGyalwang Drukpa

▪     Competitions to engage with Ladakhi youth

▪     Performances by Rahul Kharbanda, Sivamani and Deepak Pandit& Friends

21st September 2016 ▪     Performance by Shakti Mohan (winner, Dance India Dance) with local students

▪     A special tribute Performance by Bollywood Singer Neeti Mohan to Saint Naropa.

22nd September 2016 ▪     Closing ceremony with 1 lakh Ganachakra offering

▪     A grand concert in honour of Saint Naropa by celebrity singer Shreya Ghosal


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28 thoughts on “Naropa Festival in Ladakh– ‘The Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas’”

  1. This is one reason I love reading blogs, I always get introduced to something new. What a great opportunity! Can’t wait to hear your opinions about the experience!

  2. This is the first time I heard the Naropa Festival 2016 and half a million people will attend? That is almost 1/4 of Canada’s population congregate in a small place. It is amazing how this events gets people together from all over the world. And the behind-the-scene work is just amazing – helping dogs, educate the underprivileged ones, and convey the human spirit, Have fun there!

  3. Lauren Meshkin @BonVoyageLauren

    Never heard of this but it sounds AMAZING! I hope you have an incredible time and I look forward to following along.

  4. Wow! That looks like a once in a lifetime experience – A festival in such dramatic surroundings. Can’t wait to see more about it.

  5. I’m sorry to say I’d never even heard of the Naropa Festival before reading this. It looks amazing. I’ve always wanted to visit Ladakh so it seems like this festival would be the perfect time 🙂

    1. You should. I have never been to Ladakh and I hope I make it there soon. At times, I wonder I have traveled to more than 100 destinations in past few years, how come I skipped a land as gorgeous as Ladakh.Such is life!

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