Ladakh – the moonland of Monasteries
(Singhe Khabab’s Festival)
Despite being delayed by a day, we were able to attend the closing ceremonies of the famed Sindhu Festival or Singhe Khababs Festival, as it is now known (since 2006). The literal meaning of which translates as ‘Singhe’ meaning ‘Lion’, ‘Khab’ means ‘Snow’ and ‘Ab’ means ‘Water’ and the mighty Sindhu River is known by this name in Ladakh, which translates roughly to ‘The Lion of Snow Water fed Rivers’ or the other translation is ‘out of Lions mouth’. The mighty Sindhu (Indus) river symbolizes the power and permanence of the ancient Indian civilization which evolved over a period of thousands of years. This great Trans-Himalayan river has an astonishing length of 2900 km. It rises in south-western Tibet near Mansarovar lake at an altitude of 16000 ft., enters India near Demchok in Ladakh (Jammu & Kashmir) and is soon joined on its left by its first tributary, Zanskar. Further down, other streams like Shyok, Shigar, Hunza and Gilgit join the Sindhu bringing water from glaciers east of Nanga Parbat. Sindhu finally flows west, crosses the Kashmir border near Batalik and enters Pakistan. The river has total drainage area of about 4,50,000 square miles, of which 1,75,000 square miles, lie in the Himalayan mountains and foothills.
The ancient epic ‘Ramayana’ gives the title ‘Mahanadi’ to Sindhu, to denote ‘the mighty river’. In the ‘Mahabharata’, the Sindhu is reverentially mentioned along with the other two holy rivers, the Ganga and Saraswati. References to the Sindhu are also seen in many ancient literary works such as Kalidasa’s ‘Raghuvamsa’. The Rig Veda, has various descriptions of this mighty river. The sound of the rapidly cascading Sindhu is said to reverberate to the skies and the river is compared to a thundering bull. The river’s name comes from Sanskrit word ‘Sindhu’. It is mentioned in the Rig Veda, the earliest (c. 1500 BC) chronicles and hymns of the Aryan people of ancient India, and is the source of the country’s name. Words like Hindu, Hindustan and India have been derived from Sindhus and ‘Indus’, the name given to Sindhu by foreigners.
|Evening view of Leh, as the birds head home for roosting for the night|
Sindhu Darshan Festival is a festival of India held every year on full moon day (on Guru Purnima) in month of June in Leh, Ladakh. It stretches for three days. The spirit and the message of the Sindu Darshan Festival was construed to project the Indus as a symbol of India’s unity and communal harmony and is also a symbolic salute to its brave soldiers. Mr. Lal Krishna Advani, re-discovered the Sindhu/Indus River flowing though Ladakh, when he visited Leh in 1995. Since then it has been a pilgrimage for Hindu Sindhis, who in pre-partition days, used to worship her (in Sindh District), now in Pakistan . For, the purpose that, people of India, know the importance of Sindhu River, Shri L.K. Advani (of BJP), in 1996, himself a Sindhi, visited Choglamsar (8 km from Leh ) and started Sindhu Darshan Abhiyan, with handful of Sindhis. The first time this event was held in form of Sindhu Darshan Festival was in October, 1997. When held for the first time, this Festival was organized in October 1997, over seventy people from all over India had traveled to Leh for a Darshan and Puja of the River Sindhu (Indus) which originates from the Mansarovar in Tibet.
The Postal Department of Government of India issued a Postage Stamp depicting Sindhu Darshan Festival on 28 July 1999. The project ‘Sindhu Darshan’, was started to focus attention on the heritage of the ancient Indian Civilization and Culture that ‘Sindhu’ symbolizes. It aims to celebrate the Sindhu as a symbol of this country’s ethnic diversity and to promote communal harmony. Further, attention is sought to be focused on cultural and topographical beauty of the landscape of Ladakh. These aspects are sought to be blended in the design of the First Day Cover, which also carries inscription of the hymn or 'mantra', chanted by Buddhists in the area, a prayer in praise of God. The stamp depicts a landscape in the upper reaches of the Sindhu with an inset of the famous ‘Vrishabha’ (bull) the famed seal of the 'Indus Valley Civilization and a hymn, from the ' Rig Veda', describing the Sindhu. The movement also aims at promoting tourism in this far flung region thereby contributing towards the economic well-being of its people.
|Full blood action in the Polo match|
|The Ladakh Festival held in September is hosted at the same grounds|
|The head of the Drupka Council watching the Polo match|
Later on in year 2000, on 7 June, Sindhu Darshan Festival was held with much pomp and show and was inaugurated by Sh. Atal Behari Vajpayee the thenHonorable Prime Minister of India at Shey(15 km away from Leh). The Prime Minister laid the foundation stone of the Sindhu Cultural Center and also inaugurated the new office complex of Ladakh Autonomous Hill Development Council. The complex has an open air theater, an exhibition gallery, a small library and a music room. Auditorium in the center of the complex can accommodate 500 people at a time. People attending the festival can also shop for exquisite Ladakh handicrafts available at the stalls within the premises. The Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, was overwhelmed after touching the waters of Sindhu River and he said and I quote –
“Some people queried about existence of Sindhu in India as described in our National Anthem but little did they know that it flows from our soil in Ladakh.”
He further added - “Sindhu symbolised 5,000 years ethos of Indian civilization and its re-discovery will strengthen emotional integration of country.”
and quoted hymn from the Rig Veda – “Sindhu it might surpasses all the streams that flow - His roar is lifted up to heaven above the earth, he puts forth endless vigour with a flash of light, even as cow with milk rush to their calves, so other rivers roar in to Sindhu. As warrior king leads other warriors, so does Sindhu lead other rivers. Rich in good steed is Sindhu, rich in gold, nobly fashioned rich in ample wealth.”
The occasion was also marked by immersion of waters from the Bramhaputra Riverbrought by the then Chief Minister of Arunachal Pradesh, Sh.Mukut Mithi. Brahmputra & Sindhu Rivers flow from same source i.e. Lake Mansarovar in Tibet. In 2006, this popular spring festival of Ladakh was renamed ‘Ladakh Singhey Khabab Festival’ by the Government of Jammu and Kashmir and the Union Tourism Ministry to bring in more Ladakhi flavor and local involvement.
|Women selling their wares in Leh market|
|Panoramic view of Leh market|
|The Leh Khar Palace - panoramic view|
|The famed Shanti Stupa in Leh|
On the first day of the three day Sindhu Darshan Festival a reception ceremony is held for the participants, organized on the banks of Sindhu at Shey. This reception ceremony is conducted by a joint association of committees of various religious groups like the Buddhist, Muslims, Christians, Sikhs etc. under the various banners namely, Ladakh Buddhist Association, Shia Majlis, Sunni Anjuman, Christian Moravian Church, Hindu Trust and Sikh Gurudwara Prabhandak Committee, to promote national integrity. As a part of the ritual, fifty senior monks/Lamas conduct a prayer on the banks of the river. A series of cultural programs is also presented by the artists from various states of the country. A sightseeing tour is organized for the participants and the day comes to an end with a bonfire at night. After the cultural programs and sightseeing trip, a Hindu Puja is organized on the second day of the Sindhu Darshan Festival. On the third day, the finals of the Polo match are organized at the ‘Polo grounds’ in Leh and after an evening of Cultural extravaganza, the participants get ready for the departure. Leh is jam packed with thousand of tourist, especially foreigners, who flock to the hill town to be a part of these grand celebrations.
|The banner displaying the Shinghe Khababs Festival|
|The rendering of the musical instruments during the opening of the evening cultural program|
|The famed headgear worn by women of Ladakh - Perak|
As I was unable to attend the opening ceremony, due to cancellation of the flight, I have described the history and details of the same as taken from the pamphlet of the festival collected by me. After returning back to the Hotel, having visited Thiksey Monastery, Shey Palace etc., as described in the earlier blog, we headed for the Polo ground at around 4.30 P.M. on 14th June, 2013 to witness the final game being played on local ponies. It turned out to be quite an intense affair with the locals thoroughly engrossed in the game. Thereafter, as the cultural functions were scheduled to be held in the open air auditorium near the Shanti Stupa, we had some time in our hands to explore the Leh market and quickly explore the Leh Khar Palace. After going around the market, we headed for the festival at around 7.00 P.M., as the cultural program was scheduled to start at around 7.30 P.M. There was a huge congregation of people, with a substantial sprinkling of foreigners and as with all other Indian functions, it started only a little after 8.00 P.M. As Leh was quite hot during the day, we did not expect the temperatures to fall so drastically and as we had failed to carry our pullovers, we were getting the jitters due to the cold winds that had started blowing. Thus, we decided to head back after watching the opening of the function and some of the dances, the ones’ witnessed by me during the festivities were the –
|Performing the Drugpa Rches dance|
|Another view of the male & female dancer performing the Drugpa Rches dance|
i) Drugpa Rches - Drugpa Rches is a dance performed by the vegetarian dwellers of Dras and Gorkhan areas of Ladakh who are of Aryan origin and is named for the fact they were originally Drugpas or nomads. In this dance men and women adorned with silver ornaments & Peraks (the traditional headgears) and flowers dance to the sound of Damman - a pair of kettledrums named “Fo” and “Mo” (being the two genders) played with little sticks called “Damshing” and with, “Fo” having a hole in the base that permits the addition of water to lower the sound – and Surna: a wind instrument that produces a droned chord;
|Performing the Jabro dance by the tribal of Changthang region|
ii) Jabro Dance - Jabro is popular folk dance of the Changpa tribe of Changthang region of Ladakh.
Here is the link to the video of the festival -