Karsha Festival in Remote Zanskar, the Little Tibet of India

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Monks playing long trumpets at the Karsha festival in Zanskar

Karsha Monastery in Zanskar

With the current lockdown of Tibet and the unlikely chance that even if Tibet reopens once again, tourists will not be allowed to roam about as was possible more than a year ago. It well may be that Ladakh, referred to as the Little Tibet, the most remote outpost of India and a cultural satellite of Tibet, will likely lure more visitors this coming season, June to September, than in recent years.

Buddhist nuns visiting the Karsha festival, Ladakh

Ladakh offers the best that adventure and cultural travel in the trans-Himalaya can offer, from warm-hearted people, curious monks and an experience of the perfect harmony in which the locals live amidst their harsh yet stunning environment.

Lama dance, Karsha Gustor festivalVisit Ladakh and discover Buddhist culture that has enabled its inhabitants to preserve and perpetuate their cultural identity north of the Himalayas – the remoteness and desolation of Ladakh and its thin air high at 15000 feet is truly bewitching, the architecture and Ladakh house style most fascinating, and the warmth of the local people, hardened by the harshness of their environment and life, most inspiring.

Bhutan, Sikkim as well as Nepal Himalayan cultures all stage the traditional Buddhist monastic festivals. In Ladakh, Hemis Gompa has been hailed as the festival to visit in Ladakh. It’s prominence has been in part created due to easy access by road from Leh, the capital. But Ladakh, as Bhutan, offers number of fine festivals and among the most unique is the Karsha Gu-stor festival in remote Zanskar. The festival takes place at the Karsha Gompa, a monastery that huggs a steep mountainside, a spectacular site some 12 kilometers from Padum, Zanskar’s ancient capital.

Being physically the largest Geluk-pa, Yellow Hat, monastery in Zanskar, Karsha monastery is also Zanskar’s largest in terms of resident monks, counting more than 100 lamas. The monks perform sacred dances or ‘chhams’ that commemorate the birthday of Tsongkha-pa, the founder of the Geluk-pa monastic order. Visiting the monastery during this event is a one-time opportunity to experience the colorful gathering of Zanskaris that come from all corners of this remote district of Ladakh, truly a spectacle not to miss. Short flight from Delhi, visiting Ladakh is an easy to do side trip on your India itinerary. Getting to Zanskar can be done trekking overland, a spectacular trek but not a casual hike. Second alternative is an overland journey by jeep, a 2-day venture that is a superb adventure in its own right.

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