Leh, Sep 14 : A carnival of Buddhist spirituality, culture and tradition, and a grand congregation of Drukpa masters, will begin from Monday at the 17th century Hemis monastery of Drukpa lineage here, the largest such in the Himalayas.

This time, a special celebration will be held to mark the granting of the Union Territory status to Ladakh, organisers said on Saturday.

They say this Naropa festival, a celebration of the 1003rd birth anniversary of the great Indian saint Naropa, will see tens of thousands of devotees, mainly from Ladakh, Bhutan and Nepal, during the five-day celebrations, beginning September 16.

Union Minister of State for Finance and Corporate Affairs Anurag Thakur will hoist the national flag at the festival and commence the celebration of the Union Territory status for Ladakh.

The festival also attracts people from across the globe, including celebrities.

This time, Italian Ambassador to India Lorenzo Angeloni and High Commissioner (Designate) of Republic of Nigeria, Chris Sunday Eze, will be attending, among others.

The unfurling of the ancient silk Thangka of Buddha Amitabha, the largest silk brocade in the Himalayas, is among the main highlights of the Naropa festival.

A Guinness World Record attempt for 'largest Ladakhi dance' will be made at the closing ceremony of the festival on September 20.

"It will witness a record-breaking attempt wherein we will break our own previous record for the largest Ladakhi dance with about 500 women performing the 'shondol' dance dressed in traditional Ladakhi attire 'sulma' with traditional turquoise headgear 'peraq'," a statement by the organisers said.

The women, aged between 18 and 60, will perform at an altitude of over 4,500 metres above sea level at Hemis, a Buddhist monastery situated 45 km from Leh.

Kung fu nuns belonging to various nunneries of the Drukpa sect will also give theatrical performances during the festival.

A traditional archery competition, fashion show and performances by local and Bollywood artistes will also take place during the festival.

Late former Prime Minister Indira Gandhi had attended the first Naropa festival in June 1980. At that time, 50,000 devotees had attended the festival.

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