The Matho Nagrang festival of Ladakh is one of the most famous festivals in Kashmir. It is celebrated over two days every year, when two oracles or monks appear in public from a period of isolation and perform unimaginable acrobatic feats while blindfolded! The oracles also predict future events for the region, besides predictions for individuals who wish to know their future.
Among the many festivals in Kashmir, it is easy to see why this one is so revered. Let’s take a closer look.
Matho Monastery is situated in the eastern Ladakh region and is said to be the only monastery of the Sakyapa sect of Tibetan Buddhism, a sect that dates back to the 11th century and is specialised in Tantra.
The Preparation Process
Three years prior to the festival, two monks are chosen as oracles or ‘Rongtsan’ for the Matho Nagrang festival. The monks undergo fasting and meditation to cleanse and prepare physically, mentally, and spiritually, in order to become mediums.
In the first year, they prepare and cleanse themselves for nine months and then for two months during the subsequent years. Two months prior to the festival, the oracles go into intense isolation and meditate rigorously as part of the final preparation.
The Matho Nagrang Festival
The Matho Nagrang festival occurs every year on the 14th and 15th days of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. This period corresponds to mid-March each year.
On the day of the festival, the oracles invoke the deities to inhabit their bodies for a few hours. Soon after receiving the deities, the Rongtsan break their isolation. They appear in their grand silk brocade ensembles and masks in the courtyard before thronging crowds to join a mask dance ritual performed by the other monks of the monastery.
Endowed with mystical energies, the oracles begin performing stupendous feats such as cutting themselves with knives as they stride around the ramparts of the top storeys and leaping from one balcony to another, all this while blindfolded! There is absolutely no accident nor fear of any kind while performing these daring feats.
Prophecies And Predictions
The Matho Nagrang festival does not end here. The deities are said to inhabit the bodies of the monks, and for a reason. Through these oracles, the deities make predictions for the future of the monastery and the surrounding regions for the coming year. The Rongtsan is therefore also regarded as the protector of the monastery.
They also predict the future of individuals who come from near and far seeking to know their fate. The deities also advise against any perceived misfortune and suggest remedies.
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