16 Dakinis Perform Gilded Mask Dance during Hemis Festival

Gilded Mask dance by Hemis Monastery, India
Photo: July 7, 2014. Hemis Festival, Ladakh. A group of sixteen dakinis performs the gilded mask dance around a religious pole.

Sixteen dancers wearing copper / papier-mâché masks slowly move their bodies to match the traditional music tunes from Tibet. The dancers perform religious rituals to defeat evil spirits, to purify the pious space, and to bless the community during the Hemis Festival that is celebrated for good luck and welfare of the people. The Gilded Mask dance costumes are also of bright-colored brocades like that of Black Hat dance that precedes it. Every mask has a third eye.

The man dancers, led by the Rdo Rjephag Mo / Vajravarahi, dress like kind dakinis. They hold bells and small handheld drums (damarus). These dakinis dance around the sacred pole and follow the tunes of cymbals and drums. They chant the Om Vajra Guru Padma Siddhi Hum mantra.

Gilded Mask dance, Hemis Festival, India
Photo: July 7, 2014. Hemis Festival, Ladakh. Dakini dancers at Hemis Monastery

The word dakini means a sky dancer. In Tibetan language, the word dak means knowledge. Dakini is the feminine form of dak. A dakini is a female consort / entity / enlightened female / energy. These consorts can be pretty and peaceful or grotesque and wrathful.

Gilded Mask dance is also called Serbak / Zangbak dance.

Zangbak dance, Hemis Festival, Jammu and Kashmir

Photo: July 7, 2014. Hemis Festival, Ladakh. A gilded mask dancer holds a small drum.

Serbak dance, Hemis Monastery, Ladakh

Photo: July 7, 2014. Hemis Festival, Ladakh. A dancer wears gilded (golden yellow) mask.

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