Oracle festival, also known as Oracle Matho Nagrang Festival, is held each year in Ladakh, India, during the first month of Tibetan New Year.
Matho Nagrang is celebrated at a Matho monastery. This monastery is the only one belonging to the Sakya School of Tibetan Buddhism. It is a two day festival during which there are mask dance performances by monks of the monastery while wearing colorful silk brocaded robes and mask depicting various forms of God and Goddesses.
The festival is very popular as two oracles, after full-month meditation in complete isolation make their appearance, in the courtyard accompanied by mask dancers. There is also some interesting thing about this festival. Guess what? The oracles make predictions about future happenings and locals from far-off places come to seek their advice for handling any sort of a problem. Isn’t it something you’d want to know?
Matho itself, just 26km from Ladakh, is named after the Matho monastery, which means “many happiness”. Due to its location, the monastery doesn’t get many visitors outside of the annual Winter Festival of the Oracles but has a great deal to offer. Also, it is the only monastery of the Sakyapa sect in Ladakh-one of the four main sects of Tibetan Buddhism. The Sakya sect dates back to the 11th century and practices esoterism, or tantra, as its foundational teaching.
The best part about this festival is that the celebrations begin much earlier than the two public days of festivities. For the monks who serve as the vessels for the oracles are chosen every four years. This becomes more interesting, read it further. All monks who are eligible and willing place their names into a bowl and then names are drawn by lottery. And the first year that they perform this honor, they begin their duties nine months in advance. Then they go into isloation, ritual fasting and deep meditation to purify themselves and prepare to be proper vessels. For the remaining three years, they begin this preparation only three months in advance. As the festival begins, the monks are brought out, already in a trance like state, fully embodying the Ronstang.
So this festival is the most unique and amazing festival you’d ever witness, make the most of it and visit Ladakh. And not only for this mask festival, have people come here to seek future advice from those monk. While in the trance, the monk answer questions about the future of the village as well as personal questions.
For the people living here, this festival is the most awaited festival of the year. See for yourself by visiting Ladakh to enjoy the festival in March.