The two day Hemis Festival commemorates the birth of Guru Padmasambhava, who founded Tantric Buddhism in Tibet. It's held in June or July every year at the 300-year-old Buddhist monastery of Hemis Jangchub Choling, near Leh. This monastery is the biggest and richest Buddhist monastery in the Ladakh region.
The highlight of the Hemis Festival is the Masked Dance, performed by the lamas, that illustrates good prevailing over evil. The performers wear elaborate and bizarre costumes and brightly painted masks. These masks are the most vital part of the dance. The dance movements are slow, and the expressions grotesque. The music is characteristically punctuated with sounds of cymbals, drums, and unwieldy trumpets.
Each colorful mask depicts a different figure in the legend that's being portrayed. The Padmasambhava dance, which shows the conquest of the ruta demons, includes Yama -- the God of death, and the black-hatted sorcerer, Guru Trakpo -- the vanquisher of all demons.
See more photos of the Hemis Festival.
How to Get There: Flights to Leh operate from Delhi, Srinagar and Jammu. Alternatively, it's possible to travel there by road from Manali and Srinagar. The Hemis Monastery is 45 kilometers from Leh and can be reached by car/jeep or bus.
Where to Stay: This Leh Ladakh travel guide has some suggestions for all budgets.