Ladakhi Buddhists walk through villagers chanting prayers and playing
music as they bring a statue of Buddha for locals
to touch before the beginning of the Hemis festival in Hemis Gumpa, 28 miles
southeast of Leh in the northern Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir June 28
and 29, 2004. The Hemis Gumpa is the oldest and largest monastery in Ladakh.
The annual festival celebrates the birth anniversary of Guru Padmasambhava,
the founder of Lamaism (an off-shoot of Buddhism) in the eighth century. The
two-day festival is marked by ritual dancing in which dancers wear masks
representing deities and evil spirits.