Naropa & His legacy
A thousand years ago, a child was born named Naropada (Tibetan name Naropa) who grew to be an excellent scholar at Nalanda but left his materialistic world and his family to the path of enlightenment. At the age of forty he met his Guru Talopa and the next twelve years were the most introspective and spiritual learning period for him that led his attaining enlightenment.
At this moment a Dakini is said to have appeared and presented him with six bone Ornaments to match Naropa’s Six Yogas which was the essence of the 12 years of his learning. A new era in Buddhism had begun and Naropa soon had great number of followers.
Since then the six bone ornaments form one of the most important Buddhist relics and the date of enlightenment most important event for that line of Buddhism. The six bone ornaments include Anklets, Bangles, Crown, Earrings, Necklace & Seralkha and they are said to have the energy to transform the person wearing it and all who are around him or her. From that time, every twelve years the event is celebrated as Naropa festival.
This year the Himalayan Kumbh Mela (as Naropa Festival is also called) coincides with the 1000th birth anniversary of Saint Naropa and the scale of celebrations had climbed several notches. It was held at the base of the mountain on which Hemis monastery is situated along Indus River (Sindhu river) and is nicknamed #Naropa2016.
The flight to Leh was picturesque as if someone was flashing one picture postcard after another so fast that it looked like a movie. The small airport and much of the route had billboards that announced the festival to all who would look up. It is believed that the current leader HH Gyalwang Drukpa, is the true unmistaken incarnation of Saint Naropa and also reincarnation of the founder of Drukpa Lineage. The festival had been organized at his behest and in his august presence on 16th September 2016, an auspicious full moon day.
The main events of the festival was held on a ground adjoining the Naro Palace. It is a fairly recent building but extremely colourful and impressive, to say the least. The festivities began with religious chanting led by the Drukpa, sitting on his high throne and after an elaborate ritual, donning the ceremonial robes and the six bone relic to mark the of the beginning of the 6 day religious, cultural and Bollywood extravaganza. The chief guest, H.E. NN Vohra, Governor of Jammu and Kashmir flagged off the Cultural programs
I found H.H. Drukpa, who was recognized as the reincarnation of the founder of Drukpa Lineage at a tender age of three, to be very knowledgeable about the current issues, gender equality and was interested in transforming Buddhism to make it more relevant for this age and time. To this end he even had a debate for modernizing Buddhism. He is one of the few to have cycled from Kathmandu to Ladakh. Greatest amongst his achievements are the prestigious United Nations Millennium Development Goals and Guinness Record of most trees planted in Ladakh.
On the fourth day of the festival, the monks unfurled a gigantic (about 30 metres high) silk embroidered brocade called Thanka art of Buddha Amitabha, amongst prayers and chanting. As a special invitee I got the ringside view to the events. As a special invitee I got the ringside view to the events. The unfurling commenced amidst prayers and chanting and later the Drukpa blessed everyone with rice, akin to Hindu Akshata.
The daily time-table was religious discourse in the morning and cultural programme in the afternoon followed by Bollywood performances. The local performances included Kungfu and dances by the Nuns, which was a sight to behold. Beautiful performances by the students of the Drukpa’s school called the Druk Padma Karpo School (Druk White Lotus School). By the way Drukpa’s school building was the one we saw in the movie 3 Idiots final scenes. In fact if you ask for Rancho’s school, people will readily direct you to this school. The immense power of Bollywood movies at play here.
On the fifth day, there was a play on the founding guru of Hemis Monastery. The play was in Ladakhi but I could follow it reasonably well just by their actions. Of course I had in hand a leaflet that explained everything :). It was serious at places interspersed with humour which brought out a laugh or two from crowd.
I also had access to green room where I met Shankar Ehsan Loy. On another night Neeti Mohan and sudden appearance by Terence Lewis who had already performed a few days earlier. On asking , he said he had been to Pangong Lake and Turtuk. Of course he had come to boost the morale of Shakti Mohan, his student. The audience, including HH Drupa, enjoyed the beautiful singing performance by Sairam Iyer, the Dual voice singer.
While the Bollywood programs were true to their creed, I just loved the local performances . Amongst them was also the upcoming local singer such as the talented Faizal Khan. I truly hope Faizal gets the recognition due to him. Of course he got to sing with Neeti Mohan as I saw them practicing an impromptu performance what was originally a male song converted to a duet. They may have performed later at the stage too. Unfortunately we had an early flight to catch the next day and had to leave in the middle.
HH Drukpa supported all the participants by sitting through each and every performance and also enjoying the same immensely. No wonder his followers hold him in high esteem. Kudos, to the people of Ladakh. The audience did not storm the floor level at any point during the entire 6 days although the place was relatively less secure. The discipline showed! I have to admit shame-facedly that we the people of big cities have a lot to learn.
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