Ladakh festival is a major event organized every year by the J&K Tourism Department, in collaboration with the local communities and the district administrations of Leh and Kargil from the 1st to 15th of September. Its main objective is to revive and promote the richness, depth and pageantry of Ladakh's centuries-old culture, traditions and folk heritage for worldwide appreciation and enjoyment.
The Ladakh Festival is a unique project of the State Department of Tourism to patronize the revival and promotion of Ladakh's age-old traditions and customs, its cultural heritage and the performing arts. For the tourists visiting Ladakh, the festival provides an opportunity to witness and experience the lifestyle and cultural ethos of a people who have lived for centuries on the crossroads of Asia, receiving and harmonising socio-cultural and religious influences from their neighbouring societies.
The inaugural function is a mega celebration held at Leh with a spectacular procession in which various cultural troupes and village contingents participate in full ceremonial costumes, singing songs and performing various types of dances to the tune of the traditional orchestra. At the Polo ground, where the procession terminates, the participants break into a variety of folk and popular dances, presenting the best samples of the region's performing arts.
Besides this, there are interesting items like village archery festivals which are held in selected suburban villages of Leh. Every villager is required to formally participate in these events in accordance with the established social code. Every male participant is expected to try his skill with the bow and arrow in alternate rounds of archery and dancing while the ladies have to join in as many rounds of the mandatory folk dances. Other programmes of the festival include a series of evening musical concerts, mask dances by lamas of selected monasteries and mock marriage ceremonies complete with all the associated traditions.
A major polo tournament called the "Ladakh Festival Cup" is also held as part of the festival in which polo teams from different parts of the region participate. Visitors to Ladakh during this period will have the opportunity of witnessing this ancient sport of the western Himalayas being played in its original, wild style with fewer rules and frenzied crowd involvement.