Images of India : Devotees mark 1,000th birth anniversary of Buddhist saint…

kumbh-mela1Hundreds of thousands of monks, devotees and tourists flocked to the remote Ladakh region for a rare Buddhist festival, dubbed the “Kumbh Mela of the Himalayas”. Dancers in bright, silk costumes and striking headgear performed to drum and pipe music as part of the festival being held in a mountain village to commemorate the 1,000th birth anniversary of Buddhist saint Naropa. The saint and scholar is heralded by followers for starting a rich tradition of Buddhist philosophy in the 11th century. Held once every 12 years, the Naropa Festival draws huge numbers of Buddhists, especially those from the Drukpa branch which is traditionally practised in Ladakh and Bhutan. A highlight of the week-long festival was the display of the sacred Six Bone Ornaments – believed to have belonged to Naropa – in an hours-long outdoor ceremony. The ornaments include a crown, earrings and a necklace. Another highlight is the ceremonial unfurling of a huge silk tapestry of Tibet’s patron saint Padmasambhava. The brocade, known in Tibetan as a thangka, was last exhibited in 2004.