Category Archives: 9. Festivals

Vegetarian Festival like you never seen before

Think the Vegetarian Festival in Thailand is a benign occasion where meek vegetarians run around promoting eating vegetables and no killing of animals?

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There are more humans in the cemetery at night

Taoist Mediums at the celebrations

Hungry Ghost Festival in Singapore is one of my favorite month of the year. The month long celebration of when all hell breaks loose, releasing all the spirits out onto earth to run amok with the blessing of the gods … Continue reading

Likir Village view from Gompa

Likir Village view from Likir Gompa, Ladakh Himalayan India

Likir Village is about 60km from Leh, Ladakh and accessible via the daily public buses from Leh’s bus station, then its a fairly easy sandy 3 – 5km walk into the village. Most tourists probably would take the day tour which combines a few gompa visits especially if they are only in Leh for a few short days.

To get there on your own, its possible but buses from Leh to Likir starts from noon as the buses originate from Likir village ferrying the villagers to the Leh town in the morning before returning at noon.

On return, I hitched a ride back via a jeep. It was getting dark and feeling a little anxious, I didn’t want to wait. There might have been buses on the main road if I had waited long enough. I took a chance coming here, tt was either miss the rides back to Leh, or stay overnight at the village, like what I did for other gompa visits.

I arrived to Likir in later part of the afternoon, and so had to wait for the attending monk to open the doors to the main gompa for quite awhile. It was fairly a hit and miss affair but with a little wait and luck, a small group of local Ladakhis arrived for some pilgrimage trip, the monk  appeared, (for the locals knew where to look for him) and open all the rooms including prayer rooms which usually would’nt have been opened for tourists.


Likir Gompa, Likir Village, Leh, Ladakh, Himalayan India

It wasn’t particularly a memorable gompa despite it being one of the oldest gompas around Leh. The rooms were fairly dark and there were no photography in the chambers belonging to the darker guardians usually called wrathful deities. There were no photography, the rules’ reason being that it was for the respect of these wrathful deities and for the safety of this photographer who might offend these powerful beings. Personally for me, I refrained from taking any photos out of the respect of the Lakdahi pilgrims I was following around.

The view of the wheat colored millet fields of the Likir village was kinda pretty and that was my highlight for this place. Many other gompas I had been to, didn’t have this gorgeous view overlooking the millet fields and the the village.

Likir Gompa or Monastery belongs to the Yellow Hat of Tibetan Buddhist Sect. It is more popular for its large Maitreya statue situated out in the open, behind the gompa. I failed to get any decent shots of it for you to see, as a light shower descended upon me when I was there. Besides that I was suffering from an overdose of gompas and buddhist statues for the week and so was immuned and jaded to all the beauty around me. Such is life!

In the interiors of the main gompa, you might be interested in the ghostly yellow sect robes that the monks use for their cold early morning prayers. Will post those photos up when I find them.

Korzok Village Dance Preparations

Korzok  Village, Tsomoriri, Changthang district plateau, Lakdah , Himalayan India

-continued from the last post.

The lady of my guesthouse was dressing up as I left the house in the morning for a walkabout. I photographed her dressing up and helped her with her costumes and jewellery. I had unbashingly invited myself into her bedroom and she welcomed me quite openly although she was a little amused how excited I was seeing her dressing up. Her head gear lined with precious turquoise was incredibly heavy and it was amazing how she could wear that for the whole day. The whole setup was heavy and took quite awhile to dress.

You could tell how precious every gear and every jewellery were to her as she unwrapped them after taking them out from a wooden chest. Obviously these were her only possessions from her dowry as often female were only given these passed down from their mothers as their only financial property.

We couldn’t really communicate as I couldn’t speak Ladakhi and know only little Hindi, and she, spoke only little Hindi and no English.  I came to know that she was going to meet the High Lama who was coming for the blessings and she motioned that she was also going to dance for the festival. Really did wish I could have communicated with her and perhaps asked her more about her life in this remote little village.

Along the  only street out of Korzok, I came upon this bunch of women all dressed in their finest costumes, they gathered and then quickly disappeared back down to the mud lined houses.

Curious and wondered what they were up to, I was walking around from house to house,  took me quite a while before I found them hidden away at one of the ladies’ houses. They were rehearsing for their folk dance in preparation of the upcoming festival.

Couldn’t really understand what they were doing, it was a form of line dancing where they held their hands and walked front and then back while singing one of the village songs.

They often stopped and discussed what they would do next then continued on with their humming. It got kinda repetitive after that.

The head gear lined with turquoise stones was usually their only prized finanical possesions and the women usually were given very little property, except for those costumes and jewellery. Their silk cape lined with pashima sheep wool which was their main live stock in their village.

Waiting for the High Lama

Korzok Villagers welcoming the high lama

Place : Korzok Village, Tsomoriri, Changthang district plateau , Ladakh, Himalayan India

Suddenly in a flurry, the usually sedate villagers all dressed up in their traditional costumes started arriving from afar, strolling down the only road in this remote village.

A high lama was visiting the village along with the District Commissioner of Changthang region and the villagers bring their offerings and silk scarfs awaiting for the lama’s blessings

Visiting Korzok Village

I arrived at Korzok village with the intent to photograph the upcoming cultural festival.

When I arrived, I asked around,  it seems no one really knew anything about it, and didn’t know when it was suppose to happen.

Many tourists do visit this sleepy little village but only as a short overnight transit to visit beautiful Tsomoriri Lake or as a rest stop from popular Tsokar to Tsomoriri treks, before their onward journey either to Leh, the Capital city of Lakdah or back to Manali in Himachal Pradesh. Seldom do people stay more than a day let alone more than two days.

It is interesting to note that Korzok village, Tsomoriri is still a trading outpost for Pashmina wool. Many nomadic goat herders pass through this village trading their precious and highly prized wool before the wool gets exported to Kashmir to be manufactured into expensive Pashmina scarfs. Contrary to what people believe about Pashmina, they are not come from Kashmir, rather, the goats are bred in Ladakh, particularly around Changthang region before exporting the commodity to Kashmir for manufacturing. Many of these herders are fairly improvished selling their lowly priced commodity to rich traders. Imagine how expensive your Pashmina scarfs or sweaters are and to realise how these herders get badly paid for their work.

The village does experience its fair share of comings and goings from tourists, traders and nomadic people alike and at times is not so sleepy.  The village use to be quite wealthy from the numerous trades of sheep, goats and other livestock but it seems to be quite a poor village now struggling for the tourist dollar.

On Arrival

When I first arrived to Korzok village, it was initially quite empty, and had almost a desolate feel to it, there were two tea houses which caters to the transit travellers situated along the only mud road in the village.  Suddenly a large group of Israeli tourists in this cranky public ex-school descended into this quiet little village right after I had arrived . They were frantically looking around for their over-night accomodation. As it happens they were on their way to Manali after spending some time in Leh. Quite the noisy bunch they took camp at the only two tea houses and decimated all the food for the night. I was feeling a little drained from the travels already , my travel mates on the same jeep to the village took a little turn for the worse, the Russian couple were experiencing a little attitude sickness as Korzok was around 3000 meters above sea level.They found their accomodation and remained there for most of the day.

After much walking around and asking where and when would the festivities occur, it concluded that there were no festivals, I was feeling rather disappointed but hopeful, and decided that I should stay in the village for a few days despite the inital disappointment.

The next morning it became a quiet little village again, and I took walks around the village and to Tsomoriri Lake which was only a short walk away. The weather was a beautiful blue in the morning, before it quickly turned grey and overcast. But it was a good sign, with me asking once again at the Monastery and then back to the main tea house, the reply came back, there was indeed a small festival happening, a High lama was visiting, they might have a celebration for him, however they did not know what time he would arrive, but he would indeed come visit either today or the next 2 days.

A high lama had decided to visit on invitation of the Changthang district commissioner who was the one organising this little cultural festival that had been publicised in Leh.

Korzok Village Festival Preparations

The villagers hanging up a banner just  before the Lama arrive  at the Monastery

Back to the District Commissioner, I met up with him, a very humble unassuming and friendly man.

His views on the festival :  if there were more tourist still around, he would organise a little cultural dance and perhaps a horse race, if not, there will not be a festival but just a blessings ceremony by the high lama. For after all this little show was to be organised in conjunction with the much bigger tourist cultural festival back in capital city of Leh.

Obviously, the Lakdah Tourist board and the district didn’t inform the villagers that until the very last day!

The next 2 day became this flurry of activities, the villagers started preparing for the dances, and the monks were bringing out their costumes and all the gear for the cham dance. I was surprised how quickly they got into the act of things. They must be quite experienced with such spur of the moment activities. The other villagers soon came from afar crowding the streets all dressed in their finest.

Korzok Village Festival

From a quiet street it turned crowded, many villagers from around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake started streaming in dressed in their traditional costumes with intermittent dust storms blowing over the small village.

Korzok Village Festival

The procession starts with the village heads walking along as the high lama rolls in on a jeep, with the villagers lined up awaiting for their blessings. It was a rather quick affair and the high lama was ushered off to the gompa into his resting chambers.

Story to be continued in the next post with more photos of the festival preparations

For more about the Cham dance,  you can see the photos here and here.

Holi Festival of Colors

Holi Festival 2010

Holi, also called the Festival of Colors, is a spring festival celebrated by Hindus, Buddhists, Sikhs and others. It is primarily observed in India, Nepal, Sri Lanka,

The main day, Holi, also known as Dhuli Vandana in Sanskrit,also Dhulheti, Dhulandi or Dhulendi, is celebrated by people throwing coloured powder and coloured water at each other. Bonfires are lit the day before, also known as Holika Dahan (burning of Holika) or Chhoti Holi (little Holi). The bonfires are lit in memory of the miraculous escape that young Prahlad accomplished when Demoness Holika, sister of Hiranyakashipu, carried him into the fire. Holika was burnt but Prahlad, a staunch devotee of god Vishnu, escaped without any injuries due to his unshakable devotion.

Personal Note :
It’s a crazy excuse to throw lotsa colored dye powder at strangers. Everyone gets into the action, attacking each other with colored dyes that never come off.

I was ‘blessed’ by everyone I took a photo of, by the end of the day, I turned Technicolor, so did my camera which got stained with the colors

Several showers, hard scrubbing and deep soaking of my body and my clothes, it took a few days before I finally scrub off the colors from my dyed skin.

The Greens are the worst!, my ears got slammed with all the greens. they look like the umpalumpas.

Holi Festival 2010

Holi Festival 2010

Holi Festival 2010

Holi Festival 2010

Holi Festival 2010

For Sideshow More photos from Holi

Finally I met the Dalai Lama!

Finally I saw the Dalai Lama

Persons to meet before I die :

Met the Dalai Lama = CHECKED!

I was pretty blessed to have met the Dalai Lama in Ladakh, he was holding a Dharma teaching for 4 days.

I subsequently met him a few times while he was in Leh meeting up with the locals organisations.

He has such a huge presence even with 30,000 people who gathered for his teachings, he glowed in aweness. My heart skipped a few beats when I saw him the first time.

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More photos of the Cham dance at Korzok

More photos from the Korzok Cham dance.

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostory

More photos from the cham dance photos that didnt make it to the photostoryMore photos from the cham dance photos

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Preparing for a Cham Dance in Korzok Village, Tsomoriri

Prior Warning!

Image intensive for those with limited bandwidth. Keeping the photos small. You can click on them to see the bigger version but that will lead you to the flickr site where I am keeping the photos. So if you wanna view the bigger version, just use the open new tab or window rather than clicking the images.

PS : sorry about not processing the photos on PS, am a little lazy to clean up the photos, so you are getting the images unprocessed, just resized and converted straight from raw with the dust spots and all.

Early September 2009

A high lama visited the village of Korzok at Tsomoriri and they decided to perform a Cham dance only the day before. The Cham dance or Masked dance is only performed by the monks and suppose to give merits to the audience, the monks are dressed in beautifully made ornamental costumes and masks of animal deities.

I happened to intrude into the preparations for the cham dance while everyone else, the villagers and the tourists  including some annoyingly and irritating Indian ‘press’ photographer (you know who you are) and  a few other rich European photographers with huge camera set-up waiting in the courtyard for the performance. The monks were kind enough to let me stay on and photograph them dressing up for the dance. The whole setup was amazing, everyone  went about the preparations, the other monks and a few villagers helping out, dressing the monks in their beautifully intricate and heavy costumes.

The feeling I got from this event : well its more genuine and provincial, more real compared to the other large cham events that is happening in the other places.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks preparing for the first cham dance, there are 2 dances or ‘acts’. The first ‘act’ has the monks covered without the deity masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Korzok village isn’t really a rich village hence the rather humble setup for the costumes and cham dance setup. However the village use to be quite rich before with the villages having tons of pashmina goats, sheeps and other livestock trading with nomadic changpa people.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

A monk all dressed up and ready for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The two cham masks of animal deities for the second dance. The eyes of the masks were initially covered, before the  preparations, the high lama came in to  conduct some prayers, summoning the deities at the various altars. Then walked over to the masks performing the prayers, the covers were taken off from the masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The caretaker monk in charge overlooking the costumes. He is in charge of the daily evening pujas (prayers) for the gompa and also in charge of the costumes and the chest of cham masks.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Laying out the costume for the first dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Taking out the deity mask for the second dance. Its eyes were uncovered after some prayers and chanting by the  high lamas and the monks before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks all prepared and waiting for the high lama to inaugurate the whole dance by saying prayers and giving offers to the deities gods at the altars. The dressed up monks all gathered at the altars and did some quick chanting before the performance. To my knowledge, they had to summon the spirits or deities before the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama greets all the dancers and proceeds to praying and invoking the gods at the altars and asking for blessings to the performance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

All ready, the monks walking out for the first dance one by one, drumming along the way

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monks out to the courtyard for the first dance while one of the head monks watches on, he co-ordinates the dances.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The dance at Korzok gompa courtyard, quite a big event with the villagers out in their best clothes even though this was a last minute, the event announced and decided only the day before. Word gets out pretty fast here.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The cham dance at Korzok gompa courtyard with audiences from Korzok and nearby villages

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers watching, some came from nearby area around Korzok and Tsomoriri lake. All came with their best clothes and beautiful colorful woollen weaved shawls made with the local pashmina wool.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Preparing for the second dance with the deity masks

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The monk and his sword awaiting for the mask to be placed on him

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Putting on more detailed ornaments, actually takes quite awhile putting on the little details.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The Korzok gompa not really a rich monastery, they still make do with the decorations. The skull ornament is usually craved out from bone but they were inventive to create it from leather.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Waiting for help with his costume for the second dance with the deity mask

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

During the break for the second dance, one of the villagers offering yummy salted goat butter tea to everyone including myself! Such wonderful people!

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Antelope mask deity for the second dance

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Dressing up for the second dance, preparing for the heavy deity head mask to be placed upon

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The deity mask is incredibly heavy! One of the monks allowed me to carry one of them after the dance.

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

More ornaments waiting to be dressed up

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Second dance over, the last cham dancer returns back to the gompa as the trumpets playing to welcome him back. The trumpets are blown signifying that the dance is over, following the dancers in and out of the gompa chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Cham dance over, the monks playing the tibetan trumpets as the high lama proceeds back to his chambers in the gompa

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The high lama giving his blessings to the local villagers as he returns to his private resting chambers

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

Show’s over, the monks taking their instruments and other stuff back

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The villagers making their way back home after the cham dance along with their prayer wheels

Preparing for a cham dance in Korzok village

The locals going home after the cham dance with the frequent sand storm looming over. The ladies dressing in their best clothes, colorful shawls self weaved from the wool they got from their sheep and pashmina goats.

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Event : Spiritual Guru Siva Baba in Singapore 20th Sept 2008

This seems like an interesting event, Dattatreya Siva Baba (Dr. Baskaran Pillai) is the spiritual guru, who seem to be a popular guru on youtube videos, disseminating his teachings through internet channels. That is according to his self-proclaimation and his many press releases. I first heard of him through one of those internet press releases on AP and slate.

Presently living in the United States, he has been travelling around Asia giving talks and teaching healing techniques to the spiritually inclined…

I received this event through a recent email. The write up below is a little cheesy, however don’t let it deter you from participating. I shan’t give you any comments as yet, however I’ll be attending his session in the upcoming Singapore event.

Event : Advanced Intensive with Baba
Dattatreya Siva Baba will be in person to transmit profound Grace Light empowerment thorough an Advance immersion process for physical , emotional, spiritual healing. The strongest trasmission are possible in the presence of a fully enlightened master.

Date : Saturday, September 20th
Time : 4.00 – 8.00 pm
Place : RELC, 30 Orange Grove Road
Cost : $88 (exact cash please)
Email : sivababa108@gmail.com
Tel: 816 20731
Space Limited.

During the seminar, Baba will enpower you with :

  • Advanced intiation into the Grace Light, the light of God
  • Special teachings in Soul Genetics with a group ritual to gain blessings of ancestors.
  • Karma removal techniques to remove blockages in manifestation
  • Direct access to the Divine with special mantras to attract money and loving relationship into your life.
  • The deepest level of Grace Light empowerment is called the 9-Gates process, which opens 9 vital centers in the energy body and brain. The 9-Gates Process is based on esoteric knowledge from antiquity. During this process, passwords will be revealed to open up the 9-gates within the energy body. For centuries this wisdom was kept secret by yogic masters and passed on to only their closest disciples. Once this process is completed and channels are open, you will learn how to transmit the Grace Light to others so you can carry it to family, friends and others in your life.

    Grace Light Empowerment is a layering process. The Grace Light enters you more deeply and completely with each empowerment, with the strongest transmissions taking place in the presence of a Master. This is why Dattatreya Siva Baba is traveling to over 20+ cities worldwide to facilitate Grace Light transmissions.

Dattatreya Siva Baba belongs to the Tamil Siddha tradition of Southern India, an esoteric order whose origins can be traced to the eighth century. An Indian mystic and teacher who counts among his students the best-selling author Wayne Dyer, is known to many followers as the “YouTube Guru” because of his frequent video transmissions on everything from yogic meditation practices to quantum mechanics.

Dattatreya Siva Baba will be in Singapore speaking about Mind Sound Technology™ (MST) on the Television CHANNEL NEWS ASIA on the Program “Prime Time Morning” at 8:50 am – 9:00 am (SGT) on 22nd Sept 2008.

For more info, visit http://www.sivababa.org/


Update : 24 Sept 2008

Siva Baba will be in Singapore again in Nov

Thought Manifestation with Baba

As you know, Baba will be returning to Singapore soon to give more blessings and share more teachings so everyone can learn to create whatever they want. He will be teaching a seminar on Thought Manifestation on Saturday, November 8th from 4-8 PM at RELC with a cost of $88. Baba will share secrets of thought manifestation from classical yoga texts, including how to compress time to bring a thought more quickly into material reality, how to emotionalize our thoughts so they are empowered to manifest, how to enhance our ability to desire and how to experience subtle thought forms that carry the atomic power of manifestation.

Please visit http://www.sivababa.org/Events/calendar.asp for additional details.

Advanced Intensive with Baba- Money, Relationships and Enlightenment

For people who want to study advanced teachings with Baba and experience a more focused transmission of shaktipat, we will again hold a special seminar that will have limited attendance. The seminar, Sounds for Money, Relationship and Enlightenment, will be held on Sunday, November 9th from 3-7 PM. We will give location details upon registration. In this special program, Baba will teach us techniques to create different states of consciousness according to our life goals. Specific sound waves create various states of consciousness. The mind also needs to be cleared of negative programming and be empowered with positive thoughts. Baba will give a group initiation into advanced mantras that have the ability to restructure consciousness. As this seminar has limited seats available, it is important to reserve a space by contacting sivababa108@gmail.com. The cost of the Advanced Seminar is $200. A portion of the proceeds of these advanced programs go to Tripura Foundation, our non-profit organization that serves very poor children and orphaned, destitute and mentally ill children and adults.

Please visit http://www.tripurafoundation.org/ for more information on Tripura Foundation.