July 21, 2016
July 31 and August 1 are important days for the people living in Zanskar mountains as they celebrate Karsha Gustor.
Karsha Gustor festival, is celebrated at the Karsha Monastery in Zanskar, Kargil district. One of the largest monasteries, it is home to over around 100 lamas. This festival is celebrated to remember the victory of good over evil. It takes place at the largest Geluk-pa (Yellow Hat) monastery, located on the slopes of Zanskar mountains.
The monks perform a masked dance which resembles cham.
The history of cham is interesting. Buddhist monks in medieval monasteries hold sacred festivals once a year, during which they perform these 1,300-year-old mystical dances, collectively called cham, to transform evil for the benefit of the entire world. Masked dances have been a part of the Buddhist scriptures. These dances were especially performed to ward off evil forces, and dates back to the historic times when Buddhist manuscripts were first written. The Zanskar (Karsha Gustor) Festival continues for two days.
Stok is a royal residence. At this time a man is chosen from the crowd after a formal selection. This layman is spiritually cleansed by the lamas, and is prepared to receive the spirit of the Holy Deity. During the Karsha Gustor, it is the layman who predicts the future not the reputed soothsayers.
The festival culminates with the Black Hat Dance where the leader of the dancers kills the evil force known as Argham.
The main feature is the re-enactment of the assassination of the Tibetan renegade, King Lang-dar-ma, by a Buddhist Monk. The king was said to be a traitor who lived in the mid 9th century, and caused a lot of harm to the state. An effigy of the evil forces is burnt at the end of the festival.