The Spituk Gustor Festival is a celebration of peace and prosperity, symbolizing traditional Ladakhi culture and traditions. This two-day festival showcases vibrantly colorful festivities and is celebrated at the Spituk Monastery, which is approximately 8 km away from Leh. On the same day, the Geluk Pa Order of Tibetan Buddhism founded by Je Tsongkhapa (1357-1419) is also commemorated. The annual festival is a winter celebration to increase brotherhood and friendship among believers. The mask dance, known as ‘Chams,’ is one of the major attractions of the festival. Monks wearing colorful garbs perform enchanting dances depicting different deities such as Paldan Lhamo, Mahakala, etc. This festival is observed during the 28th and 29th days of the 11th month of the Tibetan Calendar. In the local language, ‘Gustor’ means ‘Sacrifice of the 29th Day.’ The festival celebrates the victory of good over evil. Seven days prior to the festival, prayers begin at the monastery. The serene Spituk Monastery gets crowded with visitors worldwide to celebrate the Spituk Gustor festival.
Although the history of the Spituk Gustor Festival may not be traceable, it is said that Buddhism in India flourished during the reign of The Great King Ashoka in 200 BC. The Spituk Monastery was founded by Od-de, the elder brother of Lha Lama Changchub Od, when he came for a Maryul visit in the 11th century.
After that, a translator named Lochen Rinchen Zangpo visited the place and named it 'Spituk,' which means 'Exemplary.' Lochen Rinchen Zangpo, aka Mahaguru, was a translator of Sanskrit Buddhist Texts during the second diffusion of Buddhism in Tibet. It is believed that he built several monasteries or Gompas.
The Spituk Gustor is a prominent winter celebration in Leh & Ladakh, a cultural and spiritual extravaganza that attracts locals and tourists from far and wide. Witnessing the traditional rituals of the monasteries is the best way to learn more about the unique culture and traditional practices in Leh & Ladakh.
Take a look at the major attractions of Spituk Gustor and anticipate attending this visually-appealing extravaganza.
Prayers: The charm and enthusiasm of the Spituk Gustor Festival can be felt way before it is observed. Prayers and worship start seven days before the day of the festival.
Cham Dance: This is the famous dance of Ladakh, performed at almost every Ladakh festival, including the Spituk Monastery. In Cham Dance, Lamas wear animal masks (made from paper and clay) and beautiful spiky headgears, usually in yellow. The Cham Dance represents a drama based on the victory of good over evil. The mask dance existed since the 8th century AD in Ladakh and is performed in several ways, including pair dancing, group dancing, solo dancing, etc.
Music: Cham Dance is supported by beautiful and melodious music and tunes of longhorns, cymbals, conch shells, bells, and many other instruments.
Get-together of Monks: The festival witnesses a congregation of monks across the world, including Stok, Sankar, Saboo, and Spituk, who gather at the monastery.
Burning of Evil Effigy: The festival ends with the burning of evil effigies that represent the ultimate truth that good, not evil, exists.