AsiaIndiaLeh

Day 12: Tak Tok Festival

Leh Travel Blog

 › entry 13 of 26 › view all entries
Chemre Gompa, near Tak Tok.

Slowly, however, I was drawn into the sacred rhythm of the dances, their strange and unfamiliar time. I understood that what was being danced with such slowness on the stage in front of me was the inner drama of all the spectators; that it was the psyche itself, in its different dignities and powers, whose progress towards transformation was being charted and displayed (...)

 

A Journey in Ladakh - Andrew Harvey

 

After an early breakfast we left the Mountain Edge hotel at 7:00 AM with three jeeps and drove southwards.

Camp site at Tak Tok.
We past Shey and Thiksey and continued eastwards to Tak Tok, making only a quick photo-stop for the monastery of Chemre.

 

It was almost nine o' clock when we finally reached today's camp site. It was located in a green field with a small mountain stream below the two gompas of Tak Tok. After one night in the hotel it was good to see the trekking crew again and after tea and cookies we made a short climb to Tak Tok. Via a road lined wit lots of souvenir stalls – how can these people survive, all selling the same junk? - we reached the festival grounds in front of the new gompa. We found a spot on a roof with a relatively good view on the area where the festivals dances would take place. A mixture of locals and tourist was grouping around the festival ground.

 

Tak Tok's festival honours Padmasambhava, a.

Look, we've got our own river in our front yard.
k.a. Guru Rinpoche, the founder of Tibetan Buddhism who meditated in a cave in Tak Tok in the 7th century. Tak Tok actually means 'rock roof', referring to the mentioned cave. The festival featured a total of six masked dances wit deep religious and spiritual meaning. The program guide of the festival contained a lot of text explaining the meaning of the dances, but I have to say that these explanations were so vague and mystical that they created more questions than they gave answers.

 

The festival was opened shortly after half past eleven by a group of monks with traditional instruments; long horns, cymbals and those big handheld drums. After this the first dance followed and ten beautiful wrathful deities hopped and twirled around the circle that was drawn around the flag pole. I have to admit that watching these dances takes a great deal of patience. Unlike some other festival dances I had seen in movies like Kundun and documentaries, the pace was dreadfully slow and the twirling and hopping on one leg enormously repetitive.

Ladakhi woman visiting Tak Tok festival.
Patience not being one of my main virtues I often found myself bored out of my skull while watching the dances. One quickly longs for the dance to end and the next beautifully dressed group to appear. In other words, the costumes were more impressive than the whole choreography.

 

After we had been treated to a Ladakhi lunch at the camp (definitely not my favourite of all the many meals Dorje had prepared in the past days) we returned to the festival where the dances had continued after a small break. By now the combination of lack of rest since the trekking, height of Tak Tok and the incredibly mesmerizing effect of the music and slow movement of the dances was starting to get to me. Instead of trying to catch glimpses of the performances through the crowd Judith and I decided to have a rest on a low crumbling wall, watching local youth check each other out and a beggar strategically deploying his wife and young kids to gather some cash from the festival-goers.

The festival starts.

 

At four o' clock, when the festival had ended, we gathered for a short tour to Tak Tok's two gompas. In all honesty, temple fatigue was starting to kick in and even though these gompas had their own characteristic features it started to feel a bit like just another big statue of Guru Rinpoche. The older gompa was build around Padmasambhava's meditation cave. This brought back memories of another cave where he had meditated in Samye, Tibet. While visiting that cave in 2006 Judith had almost set fire to the shrine while offering a white scarf. Hopefully the ‘Tour of Destruction’ would not continue here. The cave turned out to be a rather strange affair, with money sticking to the ceiling and coloured lightbulbs lining the shrine.

The festival starts.
Seemingly Judith's karma was okay since we were able to leave the gompa without any mishaps or wrathful revenge from Padmasambhava. ;-)

 

Back at the trekking camp Judith an I tried to get some sleep after the afternoon's tea and snacks (French fries!) but were woken up for a group picture with travellers and crew. At 19:00 hours Kirsten informed us that the crew had requested another attempt at the silly games that could not take place two days ago because of the heavy rains. This could easily have turned into something very cheesy, but believe it or not the two games ('zakdoekje leggen', requested by the crew and 'spijkerpoepen' as the travellers' contribution) turned out to be hilarious, involving several slidings where people almost disappeared into the stream that ran straight through the camping site.

 

After dinner Dadul informed us that the crew was going to join us in the main tent for an exchange of Ladakhi and Dutch songs.

This was the first time the crew actually accompanied us (not counting the camp fire party) and it turned into both a fun and emotional evening. Obviously the Ladakhi crew was more experienced in singing together than we were, performing several beautiful songs. We competed with a song about the trekking for which the lyrics had been written a few days ago by some of our travel companions and a selection of Dutch classics, plus that old Tibet 2006 favourite 'Ik zag twee yakken samen kakken'. In all honesty it was rather embarrassing that while the Ladakhi boys sang beautiful love songs we ended up explaining why there was a horse in the hall and other silly lyrics …

As the evening progressed the beers started to flow and I was delighted to hear that the crew had arranged three litres of chang. I can't quite tell how much of that local barley beer I've had because Paul kept filling up both his and my mug continuously. We tried to find some English songs that both nationalities new and were impressed by Jimmy's knowledge of Western music, resulting in sing-alongs of tunes by Robbie Williams, Pink Floyd, John Denver and more.

 

It must have been well after midnight when Kirsten pulled out a bag of Tibetan stringed bracelets she had bought for the group and crew.

Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Although there were only six travellers left (the rest had already hit the sack) she wanted to use this moment of connectedness to give crew and group members a bracelet as symbol of our mutual respect and friendship. As you can imagine some warm emotional moments followed and both sides proclaimed how much they would miss each other's company after tomorrow.

More beer, chang and lots of 'Larga-Lo!' followed.

 

There was a bit of a mishap when the combination of alcohol, emotions an a brewing family caste conflict between two crew members turned sour and the whole crew rolled and stumbled out of the tent to 'take it outside'. Fortunately Dadul and Kirsten were able to cool things down and the clearly ashamed crew apologized several times for this incident. Well, it wasn't nearly enough to spoil the evening's fun and after assuring them there was nothing to worry about we decided this was a good moment to head for our tents.

Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.

 

"Even our chang songs can be spiritual. We make no separations in Ladakh between the ordinary and the holy. Every action can be holy; every good pleasure can be dedicated to the Buddha. Why shouldn't drinking with your friends be holy?"

 

A Journey in Ladakh - Andrew Harvey

Devika1985 says:
hahahahhahha
ow sorry
het is allemaal vet serieus maar ik moet toch ff lachen om dit stukje: There was a bit of a mishap when the combination of alcohol, emotions an a brewing family caste conflict between two crew members turned sour and the whole crew rolled and stumbled out of the tent to 'take it outside'.

wahahha

datfestival was vast supermooi! klinkt iig erg bijzonder!! ja ik kan het bij elke dag typen: wat n ervaringen! geweldig hoor!
Posted on: Aug 19, 2008
Join TravBuddy to leave comments, meet new friends and share travel tips!
Chemre Gompa, near Tak Tok.
Chemre Gompa, near Tak Tok.
Camp site at Tak Tok.
Camp site at Tak Tok.
Look, weve got our own river in o…
Look, we've got our own river in …
Ladakhi woman visiting Tak Tok fes…
Ladakhi woman visiting Tak Tok fe…
The festival starts.
The festival starts.
The festival starts.
The festival starts.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
Cham dances at Tak Tok festival.
New Padmasambhava statue at Tak To…
New Padmasambhava statue at Tak T…
Spijkerpoepen with the crew.
'Spijkerpoepen' with the crew.
Singalong night with the crew.
Singalong night with the crew.
Singalong night with the crew.
Singalong night with the crew.
Kirstens friendship bracelets.
Kirsten's friendship bracelets.
Kirstens friendship bracelets.
Kirsten's friendship bracelets.
Leh
photo by: anupa_rk