Buddhist chanting of Ladakh

 Community/ies: Buddhist community of Ladakh

Region: Kargil and Leh Districts, Ladakh region, State of Jammu and Kashmir, India.

In the monasteries and villages of the Ladakh region, Buddhist lamas (priests) chant sacred texts representing the spirit, philosophy and teachings of the Buddha. Two forms of Buddhism are practised in Ladakh – Mahayana and Vajrayana – and there are four major sects, namely Nyngma, Kagyud, Shakya and Geluk.

Each sect has several forms of chanting, practised during life-cycle rituals and on important days in the Buddhist and agrarian calendars. Chanting is undertaken for the spiritual and moral well-being of the people, for purification and peace of mind, to appease the wrath of evil spirits or to invoke the blessing of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities and rinpoches.

The chanting is performed in groups, either sitting indoors or accompanied by dance in monastery courtyards or private houses. The monks wear special costumes and make hand gestures (mudras) representing the divine Buddha, and instruments such as bells, drums, cymbals and trumpets lend musicality and rhythm to the chanting.

Acolytes are trained under the rigorous supervision of senior monks, reciting texts frequently until they are memorized. Chants are practised everyday in the monastic assembly hall as a prayer to the deities for world peace, and for the personal growth of the practitioners.

The recitation of ancient sacred Buddhist texts are chanted every day in the monks living in various monasteries and following different sects of Buddhism in the trans-Himalayan region of Ladakh in India.

Besides, special chanting is conducted on important days of the Buddhist calendar, during life cycle rituals, and important days in the agrarian calendar.

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It is done for spiritual and moral well being of the people, by appeasing the wrath of the evil spirits and invoking the blessing of various Buddhas, Bodhisattvas, deities and Rinpoches (high ‘Lama’ reincarnate) for spiritual and moral wellbeing of the people.

The chanting is also meant for peace and prosperity of world at large.

The chanting is a highly orchestrated musical drama. It is done either sitting indoors or dancing in the monastic courtyards or in private houses in the village. While chanting, the monks wear special costumes and make hand gestures representing the divine being of the Buddha.

Musical instruments such as the bells, drums, cymbals and trumpets are used to bring in rhythm. The chanting helps in the meditation process, in attaining enlightenment and getting liberation from the sufferings of the world

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