Unfortunately most of the important Buddhist Festivals in Ladakh fall at a time when tourists are unlikely to be visiting Ladakh. Though there are a few which falls in peak tourist season – "The Hemis Festival" (June end / early July) and "The Ladakh Festival" organized by the tourism department in early September, one more is added in the list sponsored by the government "The Sindhu Darshan" in first week of June.
Some important festivals celebrated in Leh & Ladakh lists as below:
Karsha Gustor: Celebrates the birthday of Tsongkha-Pa, founder of Gelugpa Sect. and marks as the victory of good over evil. During the two-day festival, monks perform colorful & sacred Cham Dance. On day two, a sacrificial figure made of dough is dismembered using traditional weapons. In the evening a statue representing the forces of evil is burnt with much elaboration. Traditionaly this festival is celebrated at different times in the various Gelugpa monasteries starting with Spituk, Sankar and Stok in January followed by Likir and Diskit(Nubra) in March and Thikse in November.
Dosmoche: The annual prayer festival instituted by royalty on the pattern of the famous Monlam ceremony of Lhasa. It is the last event of the New Year celebrations and is held in Leh on the 28th and 29th days of the 12th Tibetan Month (February). Lamas are drawn by rotation from different monasteries of region to perform sacred dances. With their expertise in tantric practices and astrology, only the lamas of Takthok monastery are qualified to prepare sacred thread-cross model or ‘Do’ which is then made sacred with prayers to catch all evil spirits, demonic forces and hungry ghosts. This and other votives are taken in a procession, led by lamas from all monasteries, through the streets of town. At the end, the great ‘Do’ is overturned and burnt with great fanfare. Concurrent with this festival in Leh, Likir and Diskit gompas celebrate Gustor.
Hemis Tse-chu: Celebrates Guru Padmasambhava’s birth anniversary and is a 200 year old tradition started by a member of the royalty who was reincarnated as Hemis head lama, under the title ‘Sras Rinpoche’. The 10th day (Tse-Chu) of the Tibetan month is considered very auspicious and the 10th day of the 5th month is celebrated as Guru Padmasambhava’s birth anniversary in Hemis Monastery. Fortunately, this was instituted as a summer festival (late June/early July), unlike other monastic festivals that usually fall during the winter months.
This Hemis festival if famous for its masked lama dances that depict the magical feats of Guru Padmasambhava in his eight manifestations. It culminates in the destruction of the sacrificial offerings on the last day. Every twelve years it takes in a particularly auspicious flavour when the famous Two-Storey High Thangka Painting of Guru Padmasambhava is displayed.
Losar: The Ladakhi New Year and is celebrated in December, two months in advance, on the 1st day of the 11th month of Tibetan calendar. The reason for this is quite interesting; the sixteenth century King Jamyong Namgyal was to lead an expedition into Baltistan during winter, ahead of the New Year celebration. His astrologers advised him that any expedition into enemy territory before celebrating New Year would be inauspicious and so he advanced the Losar celebrations by two months establishing a unique tradition in Ladakh which is followed even today!
Matho Nagrang: Festival of Oracles is held at Matho monastery on the 14th and 15th day of 1st Tibetan month (February/March). Two monks from the monastery are chosen every year by a system of lots and are trained to be oracles, known as Rongstan, for this festival. They enter into a trance and are possessed by deities and in this state perform miraculous feats, predict futures and answer queries. They are famed and revered and people from all over Ladakh come to see and consult them.
The Ladakh Festival: From September 1st to 15th starts with a spectacular procession through the town ending at the polo ground. At the grounds the celebrations takes on a carnival-like atmosphere with dancers, performing artists and archers from all over the region showing their skills.
There are competitions, polo matches and the famous masked lama dances (Chaam) are a special attraction. There is a lot of color and gaiety in the atmosphere and this festival showcases the depth and pageantry of Ladakh’s centuries old culture.