Faith and Festivals of Changthang | Living with the Changpas of Ladakh | Episode #3


Religion plays a very important role in the lives of the Changpas. They are devout buddhists. But while Buddhism preaches non-violence towards all living creatures, the Changpas raise their animals to be killed and sold off for meat. So their lives are bit of a paradox And in this episode we will see how the Changpas balance these 2 aspects of their lives through prayers and rituals. The Changpas actually believe that they are leading a sinful life. This thought fills them with regret, and they spend a large portion of their lives trying to atone for these sins. Almost every activity they do, if it doesn’t involve talking, the Changpas would do it with a mantra on their lips and perhaps a prayer wheel in their hands. This is very apparent in the evenings when the changpas retire home after a long day with their animals. One of the evening routines is for Tsering Dorje to recite a few mantras from his prayer book. He would start reciting the mantras and one by one the others would join in, humming the prayer while still performing their chores. Soon the entire house would be reverberating with the sound of prayers. Every winter, after their new year Losar celebrations, the Changpas perform a special purifying puja called the Jyabten at their homes. Monks from the nearby Korzok and Thukje monasteries come stay at the village for one month to perform the pujas in every household. The monks light butter lamps and prepare numerous tormas and chodpas as offerings to Guru Padmasabhava. And to the beings that reside in the various realms of the Wheel of Life. The upper 3 realms belong to the humans, the gods (devas) and demi-gods (asuras), And the 3 lower realms belong to the animals, to hell and to the hungry ghosts. Chodpa is offered to the gods and demi-gods while the Torma is given to the beings residing in the lower realms More specifically they are given to the hungry ghosts which are associated with addictions, compulsions and obsessions. People who are never satisfied with what they have and always want more may become Hungry Ghosts in their next lives. Sculpted out of tsampa and butter, the Torma represents the negative or destructive energies that surround us. All that is evil, even one’s own bad features, can be projected onto the torma and destroyed. This is the reason why the tormas are always thrown out or burnt as soon as the rituals are completed. The tormas are usually thrown out in the direction where the negativity is believed to have originated. The month long pujas end with the festival of Tangpo Choa which happens on the 15th day of the first month of the Tibetan calendar. The festival beings with the tying of prayer flags on top of Pologonka La to honour the Lhato or protector deity that resides there. Pologonka La is the pass that leads to Rupshu, the home of these Changpas. Back in the village the monks are busy sculpting various elaborate tormas for the festival. The main centre piece is the torma of a deity called Troma Nagmo, the Fierce Black One or more commonly referred to as the Tibetan Kali. Blue-black in colour, she is wrathful in appearance with three round glaring eyes, a gaping red mouth and yellow hair flowing upward like flames. Every aspect her form is designed to convey a spiritual meaning. For example, the three eyes symbolise her ability to see everything in the past, present and future. One member from each household has to be present for the main puja. They gather together at the village chieftains house and sing various traditional songs with a cup of Chang in their hands. The main event of the day are the horse races or the Sta gyuks Which happens in the open plains outside the village. Not many Changpas own horses these days. Most of the horses have been replaced by cars and pickup trucks so the races are not as grand as it used to be in the past. But still, the joy on the rider’s faces is unmistakable, especially when their horses are in full gallop. The next activity is to destroy the tormas used in the pujas. One by one the tormas are placed on the ground and the Changpas come galloping on their horses and try to hit the torma with rocks. The riders whose stones hits the target are offered the Khadak (white scarf) and some Chang as reward. The festival winds down in the evening. The priests take all the remaining tormas to the outskirts of the village. They say a few prayers there and then destroy the tormas by throwing them into a fire. This symbolises the destruction of all negative energies surrounding the village and paves the way for a fresh fruitful year for the changpas.


91 Responses

  1. anil panta

    April 3, 2019 3:49 pm

    Hats off to you 👍. All these years you have been bringing these fabulous stories, marvelous work with your grit and dedication. The slow mo was beautiful. The changpas throwing flour shows happiness and joy, whatever be the day. Thank you. God bless you and keeps you safe always. Salute friend (if I am allowed to address you as such, our areas of interest are somewhat similar. )

  2. Solo Wanderer

    April 3, 2019 4:02 pm

    Worth setting a reminder for this video.

    Man you deserve more views and more subscribers.

    I felt like i was watching nat geo like i use to do in my childhood days.

  3. Karanbir singh

    April 3, 2019 4:12 pm

    The new format with small text captions in between the video clips is a great idea. Keeps audience pinned.

    Great job!

  4. vasu hooda

    April 3, 2019 4:20 pm

    Beautiful.. I am finding it hard to keep my mind engaged with the captions.. It would be nice to keep the captions really small, descriptive and reduce their number.. Your channel intro video is perfect example..

  5. Deep kwatra

    April 3, 2019 4:26 pm

    Can't explain in words what you actually did.. Superb job.. This 9:15 mins video took alot hard work n amazingly you present in this one.

  6. Tenzin Phende

    April 3, 2019 4:33 pm

    You deserve more subscribers and views, youre the true definition of creator. Much love from tibet. We thank you !

  7. Stanzin Khenrab

    April 3, 2019 4:59 pm

    🙏Thank you for making this wonderful videos… LADAKH and mainly places like CHANGTHANG are deserved to explore more to the entire world. 🌍

  8. Believer

    April 3, 2019 4:59 pm

    Though killing is strictly prohibited in buddhism but living in plateau above 4500 meter where no vegetation grows….

    The only survival option left for the nomads of ladakh,Tibet and mongolia is relying on meat products…….but still nomads try as much as possible not to kill animals…..

    Hope people will understand this…

  9. Chandan Bhardwaj

    April 3, 2019 5:43 pm

    wow! you have an art to make us travel in the time by showing such unique places, people and their customs in your very well executed/edited videos. Bravo!!

  10. Gully Boy

    April 3, 2019 6:02 pm


  11. JR

    April 3, 2019 6:08 pm

    Thanks for making such an awesome video on Changpa. Coming from Changthang I know how hard Changpa's life is and you have very beautifully shown in these videos.

  12. Bee Rhabit

    April 3, 2019 7:30 pm

    Considering their circumstances, harsh climate and altitude it is survival that understandably compels them to follow this way of life. It seems that their faith serves as an anchor to keep them going through their daily struggles. Very insightful, enjoyed the snippets of singing. The tibetan sayings have taken it to the next level…thank you 🙏

  13. Bidyut Banerjee

    April 4, 2019 2:30 am

    What refreshing videos you make bro. Only for you I am never far from Ladakh. You explore in a way which I always want but hardly succeed to do so

  14. Alex pul

    April 4, 2019 5:12 am

    the awesome video really nice episode, watch this video now "@b6J0" hope you guys like this too

  15. Humanity First

    April 4, 2019 6:13 am

    Thanks sir… Oneday i will ditch this life and become Monk… Thanks sir thanks.. ♥️

  16. Lobsang Dorjee

    April 5, 2019 3:25 am

    Thumbs up and Subscribed! Congratulations and thank you for the beautiful recording of a way of life that is so environmentally sustainable and respectful. Sadly it's slowly disappearing. They spoken sounds more of Tibetan dialect from Ngari than Ladhaki. Also can't help notice photo of HH Dalai Lama in their altar.

    I wonder how far this location is to the Tibetan border and also wonder how the way of life is across the border on the Tibetan side. I am afraid, China being super micro-manager has completely changed in the name of modernization on the other side. So in that respect kudos to India in respecting the local culture yet allowing children to get education in Leh and option to choose live the modern life.


    April 6, 2019 12:42 pm

    The way you make the videos is awesome. Your videos are story telling and amazing. Keep it up. 🙂

  18. Malkit Singh

    April 8, 2019 7:39 am

    awesome content, I traveled through these places last year and still can't get them out of my head.

  19. Sothin Manohar

    April 19, 2019 7:41 pm

    It is a great pleasure to see your vlogs bro…. thanks for such a great infos… with lot of love from KERALA

  20. Travel 2 Mountain

    May 2, 2019 6:51 pm

    क्या बात है भाई।। बहुत ही उम्दा….

  21. Atish Banerjee

    May 16, 2019 5:45 am

    I went to Ladakh in 2018 and really enjoyed it! I went for birdwatching and didn't have time to see the local culture. Your videos are really good!

  22. Tse Tan

    May 30, 2019 8:58 pm

    @4:34 when he’s tying the flag shouts, “Soo sooo” (meaning victory, victory). Usually, we say , “kyi kyi soo soo Lha gyalo” (victory to the god).

  23. Jane Doe

    May 31, 2019 11:45 pm

    It’s very intriguing that you showed the wheel of life in this video. One theory is that we are already in a pseudo hungry ghost realm, as we can can see that the society is consumed with consumerism. No matter how much junk one buys one is never satisfied, only hungers for more….. the greed has become greater than need and it is a bottomless bucket which can’t be filled while life is whiled away .
    Btw am from Ladakh, shamm side.
    Your videos do justice to the beauty of all the landscapes you have captured. Ladakh and spiti. Good luck!

  24. Goldie Hans

    June 1, 2019 5:50 am

    काम करते रहो नाम जपते रहो । when one is constantly chanting the Lord's name and doing his or her destined duties there is no more sin attached there because it is counted as "Akarma"( non doing) in "Karma"( doing). In other words it is counted as "nishkama karma"

  25. Joshua Dolpa

    June 7, 2019 7:54 pm

    I would've never known about the Changpas if there were no INDIA IN MOTION. I thankyou from the bottom of my heart and hope and pray to see more fruits of your efforts.

  26. Manoj Mallick

    June 24, 2019 6:11 am

    Pls shoot the life of nepal , mehgalaya, nagaland also. Your videos are the best story telling and what a director of photography you are just excellent.

  27. stapea C

    June 30, 2019 7:15 pm

    Though I appreciate ur work.It's really inspiring but I wanna clear one thing for u n ur viewers so they might not get wrong idea about Buddhism or changpas as u have mentioned at the starting about being a Buddhist and selling Nd eating animals … Firstly, as we all know it's normal food chain to consume one another according to scientific or survival perspective but if see through religious way, it seems unright. Buddhism as u know teach nonviolence Nd no killing n harming to others even if it's animals or insect…. But being a changpa and a Buddhist is quite hard. Their prime desire is to survive like any other people or living orgs. on this planet. Not killing an animal or eating one doesn't make one a true Buddhist if u don't have the inner quality, compassion Nd kindness towards other sentient being . And I, myself never say that I'm true buddhist just because I m not consuming non-veg. If I had to be that true strict follower of Buddha,I ryt now should be in solitude meditating nd following 8 fold path Nd not holding this phone Nd typing all these.
    So what I meant to say is, that these changpas survival is based on their animal and if they don't sell nd eat, their life will end in that inhospitable high altitude where vegetation is almost nill . And plus buddhist religion came later in their life.( Fyi : they themselves don't kill their animals any time they want to but they kill when they need to. And when they sacrifice their animal they pray for that animal which is giving it's life so that the family who was taking care up untill now to be surviving)
    Their life style is not much indifferent from the farmers who raise crop Nd cut them. Following religion and living worldly life is quiet they r balancing it…… my comment is just a knowledge being added about the beautiful documentary u have made so don't Think it as a negative feedback ✌☺

  28. สายฝน ฝันบวน

    July 3, 2019 12:54 pm


  29. สายฝน ฝันบวน

    July 3, 2019 12:56 pm


  30. สายฝน ฝันบวน

    July 3, 2019 12:57 pm


  31. สายฝน ฝันบวน

    July 3, 2019 12:59 pm



    July 7, 2019 9:59 pm

    Great to see the Land of My Ancestors…. and the lifestyle being documented. Awesome and authentic film and storyline without any extra masala as people usually do…. the vast Central Asian Plateau area is considered inhospitable by many but is home for us Ladakhis, and numerous people groups right across the region of the Greater Trans Himalayan Region, Tibetan Plateau, Northern Afghanistan, Mongolia, Tibet, and all Central Asian countries.


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