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Himalayan Trek

This is a story filed by Madhusree Chatterjee of IANS.

New Delhi, May 9 (IANS). The Hemis monastery in Ladakh, a Buddhist state in India, is a flurry of activity through out the year.

It is the hub of an annual Himalayan walk that begins 23rd May and end on 3rd July 2009. The walk starts from Manali, Himachal Pradesh, and finishes in Hemis, Ladakh. covering a total journey of approximately 400km, crossing about five Himalayan passes, the highest of which are Shikunla and Singgela, both measuring approximately 5,200m above sea level

Hemis Monastery was established by Ladakhi Dharma King Sengye Namgyal in the 17th century. It is the headquarter of the Drukpa lineage and all the monasteries throughout Ladakh are administered by it. It also trains Lamas for the royal monasteries at Leh, Shey and Basgo.

Hemis Monastery has an annual festival named after the monastery - Hemis Festival - which attracts so many tourists that Ladakh has benefited quite substantially from the income deriving from tourism. Thanks to Gyalsey Rinpoche. Gyalsey Rinpoche, who succeeded the second Taktsang Repa (the reincarnation of the founder of Hemis Monastery) as the spiritual leader of Hemis, was the grandson of the great Ladakhi Dharma King, Sengye Namgyal.

It was under Gyalsey Rinpoche's supervision that Hemis flourished. After his return from spiritual training in Tibet, Gyalsey Rinpoche introduced the present Hemis Festival. Ever since, the festival has become a local traditional celebration of the victory of good over evil.

Hemis Festival is normally held on the tenth and eleventh day of the fifth Tibetan month. In Ladakh, these two days are designated by the local government as public holidays, as the Hemis Festival is not only a celebration of Guru Padmasambhava's victorious activities over negative forces, but also an important event reminding the local people of their heritage.